Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Autopsy report

Note:  As I mentioned in the post about Dolly Part-hen's demise, my friend Beth and her kids Ellie and Sam agreed to perform a necropsy to see what they could find.  I have edited their reports into this one post.  There are some photos that you might make you a little queasy (especially if you work at a major metropolitan newspaper).  Unfortunately Blogger's jump break feature is not working, so I can't hide them.  It's your choice whether to continue!  --JH

SAM:  We laid the chicken out on its back with its legs sticking straight up. Of course, my sister Ellie had to get a picture of the irresistible feet.

ELLIE:  So here we go. Razor sharp scalpel glinting viciously, raised a hair’s breadth or should I say feather’s breadth above the chicken’s throat. I really don’t like beginnings. They’re hard, and ultimately, are scary. Well, here it’s gruesome/scary and I have a queasy feeling in my stomach at this suspenseful moment. Snap! Moment’s gone, scalpel is slicing through the soft, thin skin with an unpleasant sound. But no blood flows out because the chicken’s already dead and has been for 2 days. Kinda gotcha there, didn’t I? Well, back to business….   

BETH:  The crop was obviously huge -- it was amazing the amount of food that was being stored in there. If I had been thinking correctly, I would have dissected another chicken that had just died from our flock to compare them, but I was tired and only later thought of it.

At any rate, there was something odd about the crop. I immediately noticed that the muscle tone was not good. I dissected other parts of her and found nice, pink "bouncy" muscle tone, even after she had been dead for a couple of days. The crop was not that way at all.

The insides of the crop were grayish with white splotches on it -- kind of like the coating on my tongue (whitish, prickly, and pasty) when I'm sick.

So you're probably asking, What the heck is a crop?  Well, for a chicken it's pretty essential as all body parts are and is a storage place for the chicken's meals.  This crop was evidently huge and bulbous, the size of a softball which I assure you is not normal.  A healthy crop, when full, should be the size of a normal 9 year old's fist.

The crop is supposed to be sort of a broadening of the esophagus -- her's was way out of line. It had stretched so much that the pressure of it was making her lose her feathers in that area. The skin there could not be separated from the crop lining -- they sort of melted into one.    

We cut the skin away from around it then slit the film that holds everything in. You see three meals all lined up. On the bottom, the oldest I mean, there is a ton of long, stringy grass and green fibers. On top of that, kernels of corn and seed. The top is nothing that falls into the food category and is very surprising, if a bit horrifying. This was her last and most recent meal before her death – grit, pebbles, and stones. Not little stones, but big rocks. Rocks that should never have gone down her throat, they were so large. She even swallowed a piece of sharp flint that could’ve cut her throat.  

Some of these rocks were big! Seriously big!! I think she was feeling a bit desperate to get things moving.

After emptying the contents of the crop, I explored a little further into the digestive tract. The proventriculus comes just after the crop and is sort of the first real stomach. Although I'm no chicken anatomy expert, there was something wrong here. There should have been more of a narrowing of the tissue after the crop at the proventriculus, but there wasn't. The tissue seemed limp and lax. The muscle tone being that way may have meant that she couldn't easily push food through from the crop as is normal. 

To complicate matters, when food becomes compacted in the crop (which does happen occasionally) bacteria and fungus can begin to grow which is what I think was happening. The color was not pink like surrounding tissue, but was dull and ruddy, grayish/whitish. And I'm told the smell was quite horrific, tho that kind of thing doesn't really affect me much. Sam, my sensitive nosed boy, couldn't stop saying, "Oh -- OHHH. That smell. OHHHH." He plugged his nose incessantly and wondered how I couldn't smell it. I think the food was really beginning to rot in there.
As the three of us leaned over all this and examined the contents, the smells wafted up to my brother Sam’s nose. These smells hit him like a punch and he fell backward, making distressed sounds and plugging his nose. It smelled like very rotten cheddar cheese. I was not affected by any of this because my nose was born for dissecting and is always stuffed up. 

Lastly, she was emaciated. Very thin. Since this had been going on since birth off and on, I think it probably took its toll on her ultimately.  Upon further research, I learned that it is indeed the case with pendulous crop problems that the misshapen, lax muscle cannot move food along. This problem starts as a chick and there doesn't seem to be consensus on what causes this to happen – genetics or too much heat -- who knows?

I'm sure she had as good a life as she could have had, though. You're such a conscientious, caring person. If I was a chicken, I'd want YOU for an owner!


The JR said...

That was a lot of stuff in her crop. Poor girl.

Anonymous said...

Poor Dolly, but I agree with Beth...if I were a chicken, I would want you to be my owner, too.


The Old Red House said...

I see a science fair project in the making!

Anonymous said...

Whoa, great report. Poor chicken.


Anonymous said...

RIP, Dolly. She's lucky she was a Busy Solitude Chick. -- Barbara

Jenna @ Newlyweds said...

Oh poor thing! But I must admit this was very interesting. I hope I never have to deal with impacted crop.

artgr8 said...

Hi Johanna:)
I have enjoyed reading your blog as though I were reading a great book with excellent pictures, while making a new friend.

I have loved meeting all those who live and work with you at Busy Solitude Farm, and seeing them live and grow.

I have learned so much!
Keep up the great work.

RockinTonyA said...

I just ran into you blog through a link somewhere on Facebook. The Voltaire quote caught me. Interesting info on your chickens. I had some in the past. Funny when you have them 'as pets' they seem to have real individual personalities.
I enjoyed your writing style.