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How and Why to Necropsy Poultry

We all love our birds, and sometimes it’s hard to get past the questions or concerns we have about necropsy but it’s an important part of responsible farming and keeping a healthy flock.

Our own farm’s policy is any adult bird who passes without an obvious cause of death gets sent in to the state lab for necropsy. We do this so we have data on what’s going on with our flock, and most importantly if there’s something that can affect the rest of our flock or poses a health concern to humans/consumers.

So what are the steps?

Your bird has passed and you’re in need of information. Gather a clean trash bag and disposable gloves. Place the deceased bird inside the bag and tie it off. I like to double bag specimens.

Next you’re going to place it under refrigeration. Do NOT freeze the specimen as this degrades the quality of the specimen for the lab technicians to inspect.

Go online and fill out a submission form. If you’re in California you can use this one, or go to your local vet if they provide the service. Most necropsies on a single chicken run about $25, plus overnight shipping or your fuel if you’re dropping off at one of the locations. g/files/dgvnsk2461/files/files/page/ BYF_StandardSubmissionForm_04-2019_0.pdf

Place your completed paperwork inside a zip lock bag to keep it dry and clean.

For shipping, pack frozen disposable gel packs around the bird. Do not use water bottles or water product that can leak.

When shipping, it’s important to confirm that the box will be shipped and arrive next day. If it’s a weekend before the lab closes, don’t ship until their next open day or the specimen will rot. It’s a good idea to call ahead and confirm with the lab what you’re sending, they’re open and ask any questions you may have that aren’t answered on the included fact sheet below.

You can do this process with an exotic bird or other bird types as well when looking for answers on why a bird has passed. Many labs take a wide variety of animals and are often times much more economical than a local vet offering necropsy procedure.

One example for a good cause to necropsy poultry is for suspected Marek’s disease. Other issues can exhibit similar symptoms, so knowing if it’s an isolated case or a whole flock dilemma is very helpful when making long term health decisions for your farm or hobby poultry.


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