Here’s the necropsy report for the day. Yesterday I visited a friend who has chickens in the city, and her birds were fine; today she called with a dead hen. The hen had died between 2 PM and 4 PM today.
The hen had laid (and eaten part of) a soft-shelled egg. When I opened her up, I found a HUGE amount of fat and a massive amount of blood in the body cavity, seemingly a liver hemorrhage. In addition to the liver issues, she had a nice collection of ascaris (roundworms) in the intestinal tract (one was over 2 inches long). Her gizzard contained very little grit and a large amount of grains/vegetable matter and some plastic pieces.
Dr. Sakas of Niles Animal Hospital reviewed the necropsy pix and said that the underlying comdition was the fatty liver, and death was caused by an aneurysm. She died shortly after laying an egg, and the strain of egg laying can cause a hemorrhage.
Fatty liver disease (hepatic lipdosis) is also seen in caged birds (like parrots and parakeets) that are fed a diet of strictly seeds. A diet that is too nutrient dense, as well as lack of exercise, can cause fatty liver syndrome. Fat builds up in the liver and the body cavity and can cause shortness of breath, organ failure, egg binding, and hemorrhage. I’ve taken my parakeets off of a seed diet and put them on a pelleted formula for this reason. [NOTE: Diet conversion of caged exotics must be done slowly and under very careful observation. Birds to do not take to change well and can starve themselves to death during a diet conversion. Check with your avian veterinarian before trying this on your own.]
My friend doesn’t overload her birds with bread, mealworms, or other treats, but as I observed the birds eating from the feeder, they were picking out the bits of corn and leaving the mash. I advised her to feed a finely ground mash without the bits of corn, a crumble, or a pelleted food to prevent the hens from picking the “marshmallows” out of the “Lucky Charms” and leaving the “cereal” behind.
I also suggested minimizing the amount of food available to the birds, limiting it to about 1/4 lb per bird per day. More exercise would probably be beneficial, too.
The pictures below are not for the faint of heart!