Health Issues Pathology

Avian Pathology Cases: 24

This series is a partnership between Bitchin’ Chickens and Dr Vicki Bowes, vet/avian pathologist. We get together to chat about interesting chicken health issues and attempt to come up with a diagnosis based on the information we have, which often isn’t much.

Recently we worked through about 30 cases and I’ve grouped these ones based on Dr Bowes determination that they all involved an injury as the catalyst for their pathology.

Infected Comb

This girl has had a swollen comb for about a week. She is acting normal. Today I lanced it thinking it was infected but only got a drop of blood. I cleaned it with Betadine and applied Hen Healer. I think the black area may be from getting pecked although I haven’t seen that. – Judy Hrenyo Dioguardi  

Bitchin’ Chickens: I found the post above in an online chicken group. The following is a response which I asked Dr Bowes to comment on:

That will be a big plug of creamy white chicken pus. As a vet I would lightly sedate her then inject some local anesthetic and extend the opening slightly front and back. I would try to avoid crumbling the lump of pus so it comes out in one piece. You would get a small amount of blood from the small cuts but this would be easy to control with pressure. This would not need any sutures, just push the sides together. In a small number of cases, this might recur as a small bean of pus but it would be easy to repeat if needed. Sedation: Torbutrol/Midazolam is one option. I usually use Meditomidine/Ketamine/Midazolam and generally the local anesthetic isn’t needed. (Name withheld)

Dr Bowes: This is a localized infection probably due to an injury. I agree with the above advice, but only under veterinary care. I don’t recommend at-home surgery without the use of pain management and antibiotics. There was also no mention of egg withdrawal periods.

Rescue Hen Injuries

I found two hens abandoned in a parking lot today. One has a small facial injury and her eye is watering. I’m aware that they don’t have tear ducts, but I’ve never seen an eye ‘leak’ like this without swelling or respiratory issues attached.

The other is missing the entire top half of her beak. I understand a small amount of beak anatomy, but I don’t know what the small, soft fleshy part that is in her picture. I can only imagine that it’s highly sensitive and that I’ll have to make her soft/liquid foods.  – Dylan Breese

Dr Bowes: Hen #1:The red area under her eye appears to be an injury, which would explain the tearing. Her eyelid is intact, but the skin overlaying the sinus is gone. I would treat as an open wound.

Hen #2: The fleshy part is overgrown keratin. The damage includes some of her nares (nostrils). I think she can live a normal life using her lower beak to scoop up food. Monitor for any changes.


I found my 7-year-old Brahma hen dead in the coop. I noticed a lump on her throat below the lower beak the day before she died. I opened up her neck and found this lump, which was pretty firm and slightly rubbery feeling. – Jennifer Beal

Dr Bowes: This is an encapsulated abscess probably caused by a penetrating injury such as swallowing sharp food. The infection appears independent of her trachea so she was still able to breathe.

Traumatic Injury

I have a 5-month-old Silkie hen that developed wry neck recently, pretty much overnight. I treated it as a vitamin deficiency with Nutridrench twice a day. When she didn’t get better we went to the vet for X-rays.  She has a 90° angle turn in her neck. The vet gave me anti-inflammatories and antibiotics because she also apparently had a upper respiratory infection (URI) with no visible symptoms, but it showed up on the X-ray. – Alyssa Giroux

Dr Bowes: I would like to know if there were any neurological deficits or recent injury. Can her neck be straightened? Is the deformity one of the spine or muscular (neurological). Wry neck usually presents as the neck bending forward or laterally, not at a 90° angle. This case is more severe and unusual and more likely the result of a traumatic injury. The X-ray doesn’t indicate any obvious signs of an URI.

Pecking Injury

One of my pullets sustained a horrific scalping from one of my older hens. Does this injury appear to be healing correctly? The initial injury probably should have been sutured but that didn’t happen and I did the best I could with what I knew at the time. Some of the advice given said the flap would most likely dry up and eventually fall off, but it’s appearing to be growing thicker, which has me concerned that the tissue is not dead and she’ll have some kind of meatball hanging off her head for the rest of her life. – Patricia Auch

Dr Bowes: If the lump is devitalized it will dry up and fall off. If there is a blood supply to it will stay that way. A vet could debride and clean the wound.

Bacterial Infection

I had to cull a hen this morning due to a growth on her thigh that was hindering her ability to walk. There were no open wounds, no signs of trauma. I didn’t notice this until it affected her ability to walk. I cut the growth out and wanted to find out what it could be. Is it infectious to other birds? – Kelley Newman

Dr Bowes: The exterior appears to be discrete and slow growing with the skin stretched over it. The interior is a bacterial infection with caseous exudates and classic lamination (similar to salpingitis) caused by a penetrating injury that was localized and walled off.

Bitchin’ Chickens: Just to let you know Dr Bowes gave out a little excited cheer and said ‘winner, winner, chicken dinner’ upon seeing these necropsy photos. I’m always happy to present something of interest to her (and hopefully to you too).


Abscess: a localized collection of pus in a cavity formed from tissues that have been broken down by infectious bacteria. An abscess is caused when bacteria such as staphylococci or streptococci gain access to solid tissue.

Caseous: cheeselike, especially in appearance, smell, or consistency

Debride: remove damaged tissue or foreign objects from a wound.

Devitalize: to lower or destroy the vitality of; make weak or lifeless

Exudate: a mass of cells and fluid that has seeped out of blood vessels or an organ, especially in inflammation.

Keratin: a fibrous protein forming the main structural constituent of hair, feathers, hoofs, claws and horns.

Well that wraps up another edition of Show & Tell With Bitchin’ Chickens and Dr Bowes. I hope that it’s been a learning experience for you.

If you’d like help with a case drop me a line using the ‘contact’ button on my home page. Remember to wear gloves, take good close up photos from several angles and supply us with plenty of information (e.g. timelines, symptoms, medications, general flock health, etc) so we’re able to more accurately pinpoint what’s going on.

Thanks again to Dr Vicki Bowes for her willingness to share her wealth of knowledge and experience to build capacity and skills in small flock keepers.

2 comments on “Avian Pathology Cases: 24

  1. debbielvt

    Interesting cases. Thank you for sharing, and thank you to Dr. Bowes for her professional input.

    Liked by 1 person

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