Grit Blogs > The Old Batz Farm

Chicken Health: Performing a Hen Autopsy

A photo of MichelleI finally got the mites under control, and then my rooster, Cashmere blocked the coop entrance and wouldn’t let one of my hens in. She was very quiet, slow and not quite right, so I brought her into the dining room ER playpen. She ate and drank her water, but just seemed a tad bit off.

For us chicken people, we know when one of our hens isn’t doing right. Two days passed when I had to start forcing food and water down her with a syringe and knew she may not make it. Well, she didn’t I am sad to say. Since I have done autopsies on some of my other hens, I decided I needed to find out what went wrong with her. I waited until the next morning after refrigerating her to do the actually autopsy. I grabbed both of my animal/chicken medical books and started.

Most of us eat chicken and never think about what they look like unless covered in BBQ sauce. But I find it interesting of how the inside of a bird looks. Everything is neatly organized, and so much of it in a small place.

Anyway, everything looked good and healthy, no dead spots, worms, tears, etc. Then I found her heart. Instead of the beautiful ruby red color and firm, it was pinkish, 2 to 3 times the size it should be, and mushy like warm jell-o. Sorry if I just made you hate jell-o, but that’s what it reminded me of. The poor girl didn’t have a chance with the heart she had been born with. It made me wonder if the hens my neighbor and I had bought as day old chicks were all of the same mother or coop. She had 3 die suddenly, and this was my second one from this batch. They were also either red sexlinks or Rhode Island Reds that we lost. None of the black sexlinks seem to have this genetic flaw that we have noticed. Sadly it is not something you can prepare for when you buy day old chicks or even hatch your own.

Though I personally do not like cutting up my chickens to see what is wrong with them, I am glad I have the ability (stomach) to do so. I have learned many things by doing this, such as a hen that was gizzard bound caused by long grass, one with a sinus infection that went to the brain and now this abnormal heart. One of my dear friends called me the Poultry CSI, in jest. She is right though because everything I learn helps me and may help others.

On a happier note, three of the new girls are laying soft brown colored eggs. All the other girls have yet to start laying, which may be a good thing, because 12 hens times 7 days is a lot of eggs for 2 people to eat! Thank goodness my neighbors love eggs, I will be keeping them well stocked. Well until next time, may you have a wonderful chicken day!