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WeeLittleChicken 08-09-2013 12:04 PM

Another update. Lost Pumpkin, another Serama rooster. He got sick fast, died within three days. Curiosity got the best of me and I did an amateur necropsy on both him and the little pullet I lost just before him.

In Pumpkin I discovered his liver was a sorry sight - speckled in color with gray patches here and there and other spots of discoloration. Everything else appeared alright.

In Raven the pullet who was sick for two weeks - well her insides were a MESS. Her liver was downright scary. It was speckled worse, big gray patches, general discolored spots, and a line near the bottom that was tan (necrosis?) And if that wasn't bad enough she had something else going on. I cut into her liver and up near the top it was the consistency of ground meat and felt... grainy. Definitely not normal.

In addition to that she was missing a gall bladder (probably just a genetic anomaly) and the thing that connects to her gizzard, the proventriculus, was HUGE - three times the size it should have been. I cut it open. Looked to be just swollen for the most part. Her heart showed some gray flesh around it too. Not really sure what to think of that.

Did a little research... It could be mareks but I'm not convinced. I looked up if cockatiels could get mareks, yes they can, but just like these two particular chickens the symptom list is way different so I don't know.... Another possibility, one I think is more likely, is some sort of protozoa. Apparently nitrates in the water can cause bacterial and fungal (and maybe protozoa??) to grow out of control. NH water is apparently rife with giardia, I found out from another chicken owner........... And back when I had cats they had giardia. Blah.

It's raining today. I am going to retest the water, see if the nitrates are above 5. it looks like this issue is going to be more complicated then previously expected. I took photos of the weird organs. Just don't want to post them here and shock anyone but if you want to see them I can put them in an album somewhere.

Bee 08-09-2013 12:20 PM

Please post them? Chicken organs are a fact of chickens, as are necropsy results, so it could be very educational.

I am so sorry that this is happening and I wonder what in the world you can do to prevent it. If you are using this same water to make your FF, I'm wondering if the organisms in the FF could kill off the harmful pathogens.

Been doing a lot of searches about spots on the liver and found that fungal infections can show up there and cause these types of lesions, so you might be on the right track there, who knows? Sure would be neat to have the birds sent away and with the information you have on your water as some added info so that those doing the necropsy would have a clue as to what to look for.

Bee 08-09-2013 12:42 PM

Here's some symptoms of liver disease in dogs and if you could only find out what is affecting their livers. I think you are on the right track with the water but just haven't found the missing clue...


Symptoms of liver disease are variable and subtle in the early stages of the problem. The classic symptoms are:
Poor appetite (anorexia)- This is a common symptom
Weight loss- The poor appetite that occurs in liver disease eventually leads to loss of weight. Improper metabolism of fat, carbohydrates, and proteins complicates the situation also.
Polyuria/polydipsia (PU/PD)- This is excess urinating and excess drinking of water. This can occur in liver disease, although several other important diseases cause these symptoms also, notably, kidneydisease, Cushing’s disease, pyometra, and diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes).
Lethargy- Poor appetite and disruption in normal physiologic processes leads to this symptom. Anemia adds to this lethargy, along with ascites due to the discomfort it causes.
Anemia- Improper nutrition from a poor appetite, along with disease in the hepatocytes will cause this.
Light colored stool- If the biliary tree is prevented from secreting normal bile pigments into the intestine the stool will lack pigmentation and appear lighter in color.
Bleeding disorders- The normal clotting system is impaired since it depends on a healthy liver.
Distended abdomen due to ascites or hepatomegaly. If the distention is severe enough breathing might be labored from pain or the pressure on the diaphragm.
Vomiting (emesis) nausea, or diarrhea. Sometimes blood is present in the vomitus (hematemesis), especially if a gastric ulcer is present. The ulcer comes from a complex interaction of histamine, nitrogen, bile acids, Gastrin, portal hypertension, and altered mucous membrane lining the inside of the stomach.

Pain due to distention of a diseased liver.
Orange colored urine or mucous membranes due to jaundice.
Behavioral changes- circling, head tilt, heap pressing, and seizures, particularly right after a meal

WeeLittleChicken 08-09-2013 08:34 PM

Well, I have never fed them FF, too afraid to use water I've felt up until this point was poison... but who knows. Willing to try anything at this time. :/

I am thinking maybe if another dies I can try getting it to Tufts, a veterinary university that is maybe an hour and a half, two hours drive from here. Previously I've used local vets to do necropsies and to be more than blunt about it... they're terrible at it.

Anyway, did another tap test after some rain. Nitrogen is still a strong 5. Will try it again tomorrow.

I am not sure how good these photos are. Unfortunately I only had my cell phone to make photos. I had no idea how to go about this but I decided I had to figure out a way to keep the organs in place so I knew what I was looking at, while staring at a chart. Had to cut them open from the front and cut through the sternum with some wire cutters. This worked for what I needed and explains why there's feathers in some of the photos.

This is Pumpkin's liver... As I stated before he died much quicker and had less other organ damage but his liver is in a sorry state. (Also I am sorry for the hack job I did, there's cuts on the liver that are totally me...) But anyways as you can see there is a lot of discoloration.


Also I thought Raven had the liver cysts but according to my photos it was Pumpkin. I cut part of his liver open here and found what I believe to be cysts. This was where the liver felt grainy and had the texture of ground beef. As you can see the black spots are blood clots but I have no idea if that was before or after death those formed as he died naturally, not from bleeding out like a slaughtered chicken. There's also white spots.... no idea what those are.


Another nice photo - much nicer than the ones I took after I removed them.


And Raven, the little pullet who was sick for two weeks before dying... I knew what I was doing by the time I got to her and it's a good thing because her liver was in much worse shape. This is a photo of the liver still in place, as you can see there is a sliver of tan discoloration at the bottom (which actually looks... cooked... if that makes any sense.)


Here is her gizzard, still attached to a HUGE proventriculus...

I cut it open to see whhhy it was so big...

And here's her tiny heart. I don't know if you can see it but it was swaddled in an unhealthy gray patch of flesh (wasn't fat.)


Bee 08-09-2013 09:21 PM

Wow! Thanks for the pics..most educational. I agree with your assessment about the livers..definitely some kind of disease process going on as well as that proventriculus tumor. What's with THAT? No wonder it was sick!

Those livers looked like organs from young chickens, did not seem overly enlarged as one would see in hepatitis. No fluid in the body cavity as one would find in ascites? The heart was not enlarged either but did look diseased as well.

I'm wondering about heavy metals or metal toxicity...any chance of that in your water? The symptoms of zinc poisoning include the polyuria and abnormalities in the liver.

Found some articles on high nitrates and the symptoms, noted this paragraph:


Monogastric animals such as swine and chick-
ens have no rumen. Most nitrate is rapidly elim-
inated in their urine
Sure wish I could help you find this..this is going to bug the crapola out of me until I know and I'm sure you are in much more dire need to know. Simply frustrating!

WeeLittleChicken 08-10-2013 06:55 PM

We tested for heavy metals first thing - as some people around here have arsenic run-off but everything came out OK in that department. I am thinking the high nitrates are providing an ideal environment for a "bloom" of protozoas. The reason I think this is because when I had the cats they always had giardia or coccidia... to the point the meds they were giving me to treat them stopped working... and they were diagnosed with IBS...

In addition to that I found this photo that looks like my ground beef liver... it was also caused by yet another species of protozoa, some sort of amoeba... (Entamoeba histolytica ) This particular protozoa lives in the liver by encasing themselves in an abscess which causes the weird clots I found... before spreading to the brain (I didn't look at their brains... it didn't occur to me I should!)

I talked to a friend of mine who is med student. He tells me that protozoa LOVE livers and he thinks my nitrate idea might be correct. In the meanwhile I am looking to borrow someone's microscope to see if I can see any wee beasties in the tap or in the livers (which I've pickled in vodka for now.)

fuzziebutt 08-10-2013 07:01 PM


Ok now that is off my chest, what about black walnuts? They are toxic to chickens. Or histoplasmosis encapsulated in humans, possibly something to consider the relation, since it is caused by chicken poo?

WeeLittleChicken 08-10-2013 07:05 PM

And oh, I have been looking around about the enlarged proventriculus. I found something but now I can't find it back - I think it was another protozoa. I'll backtrack and see if I can find it. Head's spinning. Also these chickens were hatched back in March so they're about six months old. Obviously being Seramas they were still tiny but had grown normally up until that point. There was no excess fluid that I saw.

WeeLittleChicken 08-10-2013 07:07 PM

Well, I asked if I should post them in the first place.... I can edit a few messages back and add that if you'd like.

And nope, no strange plants here. These Seramas live in a tractor that only covers lawn.. and the cockatiels and cats lived indoors so there's no explanation there either....

Bee 08-10-2013 07:18 PM

You can go back to your original post and edit the title to say Graphic Pics Warning or some such for those who are squeamish about the facts of chicken anatomy.

Thank you for posting this info and pics so that others may learn!

I'm wondering if the FF might kill any protozoa bloom encouraged by the nitrates. Someone on BYC was reporting that one of their pets kept getting giardia but that it cleared up after they started fermenting their foods.

Worth a shot!

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