Monday, April 30, 2012

Nutmeg Hen Autopsy

On Sunday we put down our hen named Nutmeg
Chick on her name above to see a photo of her last week. 

Nutmeg the hen was in pain, and it was starting to affect her breathing, and no one deserves to suffer.  We thought she was egg bound. Her abdomen swelled, she started walking stiff-legged.  I started giving her warm 20 minute soaking baths inside the house to help her release any stuck eggs.  The baths never helped.  I noticed during the baths that the pressure of the bath water made it hard for her to breathe.  Whatever was inside her abdomen was pressing on her lungs. 

We moved Nutty into the infirmary coop this past week.  She still ate fine.  She walked around.  She had a heat lamp focused on her all the time, which she enjoyed.  If the heat lamp was turned off she got upset, and so I left it on all the time, and she stood right under it.  She was pooping fine.  The issue was in her reproductive tract, not her digestive tract. 

I moved other birds into her coop to keep her company.  If the visiting hen was below Nutty in the pecking order, Nutty chased them and wouldn't let them eat her food.  She was a feisty little bantam hen.  I took her outside her coop for walks, she enjoyed her freedom.  But after the walk she was exhausted and often had breathing problems and laid down under her heat lamp.

We put her down because we knew there was no hope for her, and she was in pain.  Her condition was only going to get worse.  However, we really didn't know what was wrong with her.  And so, after she passed away, we performed an autopsy to determine what happened, so maybe we could prevent this from happening to other chickens.  It was very interesting.

If you do not want to see autopsy photos, stop now and turn away. 

First of all, we need to understand a chicken's reproductive tract.  The below photos show how an egg is created by the hen and travels through her system.

Here's a photo of Nutmeg's butt.  You can't see how swelled she was from this angle.  I should have taken the photo from the side view.

During the autopsy, a huge fluid-filled bag was found inside her.  It appeared to be her uterus!  It was filled with what appeared to be a clear liquid.  The below photo only shows half the fluid-filled sac.  As we removed it from inside her, it popped.

There was what appeared to be a hard tumor in her vagina, between her uterus and her cloaca, and it was blocking the entire vagina, holding all the liquid in her uterus.  I don't know if at one time this tumor was an egg.  It certainly didn't appear to be an egg.  It was a solid mass - you can see it between Randy's fingers in the below photo.

Further up we found what we believe to be 2 eggs that were in the reproductive process.  They appeared to be healthy immature eggs. 

And so we determined that Nutmeg's issue was a solid tumor in her vagina, between her vagina and uterus, which caused the uterus to be filled with massive amounts of liquid.  

I hope this information and the photos are helpful to small flock chicken owners in the future.  If anyone has any information that can help diagnose or explain Nutmeg's issue, it is greatly appreciated.

RIP Nutmeg
June 17, 2010 - April 29, 2012


John Gray said...

an old vet used to call this fluid retention simply "dropsy"
"when a hen has it, whatever the cause, the hen is as good as dead "
he always said

IsobelleGoLightly said...

I'm so sorry that Nutmeg has passed but you certainly gave her very good treatment. My lady said that the autopsy was very informative and helps her understand what's going on inside her hens.

Carolyn Renee said...

I wish I had done an autopsy on our hen! It makes me wonder if it was the same thing as we did all the things we were "supposed" to do for an egg bound hen and nothing helped. Thanks for the very informational post!

Knatolee said...

Wow, I'm impressed you did this! I wish I had info that could help.

I'm sorry you lost Nutmeg. I know you tried hard to nurse her back to health. xoxoxo

Farm Girl said...

I am so glad you did this because I am positive this happens to my hens from time to time. I always thought it was a form of cancer. I cannot believe the size of that sack filled with fluid. No wonder she was in so much pain.
You were brave to put her out of her misery.
Now I will have a better idea when my hens act like this. I also like what John Gray said too.
Well done on the autopsy too. I am so squeemish, and that didn't bother me in the least. :)

Razzberry Corner said...

John Gray - dropsy - cool, now I know what it's called. Thanks.

Isobelle - thanks, I want to help others who may have hens with this issue. I didn't understand what was wrong, I hope I helped others to understand when they have hen problems in the future. Blogging is all about sharing info.

CR - I thought it was odd that nothing was helping the poor hen. She wasn't eggbound after all.

Nat - it was a tough decision to make, to autopsy the hen. But I want to help others, so they know that their hen may not be egg bound, it may have other issues.

Kim - the sac was HUGE, it just popped out as soon as we cut open the bird's abdomen. It must have put so much pressure on the poor bird from the inside. Animals don't show pain. I, too, am squeemish, but doing an autopsy is clinical, it's solving a mystery, helping us all to understand. I cover the rest of the animal and only look at the specific area where I'm working. I felt bad for showing Nutmeg's feet in the photos, I wanted to have them covered so it would look less like a live bird. I hope one day someone else comes to this webpage and this helps them to understand that their hen is not egg bound, but she may have another issue such as "dropsy" or fluid retention or a tumor.


Danni said...

Holy smokes, Lynn... I don't know that I could've done what you did, but I certainly wish I could. The information and knowledge you gained (and have now provided to others) is incredible.
I'm so sorry for Nutmeg's illness and loss, but am so glad that you were strong enough to end her suffering. You are an amazing chicken mama.

CaliforniaGrammy said...

Lynn, this is such a great post, such a good lesson for us hen-lovers. You did the best you could for Nutty. The photos of the autopsy were so helpful too.

Dog Trot Farm said...

It is a trying experience to see a hen suffer. I have inquired as to having a vet come to put an ill hen down, however, they just roll their eyes as if it is a trivial matter. May I inquire as to how you put down your sweet little hen? This was a very informative post, may little Nutmeg rest in peace. Hugs...

Ronna said...

I'm sorry for your loss. I have a cat called Nutmeg whose nickname is Nutty...and I understand how sad it is to lose an animal.

LindaG said...

*hugs* ♥

Lisa said...

I am impressed you did this. I could do it to another animal but not mine. When our doeling died and we needed an autopsy done the vet did it and Dave watched. I couldn't.

That was one huge bag of fluid for such a small hen, no wonder she was in agony.

You did the right thing.

Robin said...

Oh my goodness Lynn, that is amazing. I can't believe she was still alive with that inside her. It was best you put her down as I don't see how she would have gotten better. Poor thing.