I am writing to you in the hope that you can offer some advice about a two-year old Sussex Utility hen which appears to have developed a cyst. In September 2005, I noticed a small bare red patch of skin about a couple of inches below her vent. I examined her and discovered a round, soft, fluid-filled lump approximately 1.5 inches in diameter. The surrounding skin and feathers were clean and free of parasites. 

I took her to the vet straight away. Being a rural practice, there are two vets familiar with chicken ailments, but surprisingly, neither had seen anything like this before. They withdrew about 15mls of quite thick, cloudy fluid which was sent to the lab for analysis. Tylan soluble was prescribed at 0.5 grams/litre of drinking water, to be given twice a day for seven days.  As the hen otherwise was in good general health and laying happily, the vet suggested that I just kept an eye on her and wait to see if the cyst cleared up.  A week later, the lab results came back and revealed that the contents were nothing serious, just thin and watery fluid. Although the cyst remained the same size, she has been fine up until now. However, in the last couple of days, she is eating and drinking very little and is passing watery white coloured diarrhoea. On examination, I found the cyst had increased in size considerably. Once again, I took her to the vet, and again, she withdrew 60mls of clear fluid. She prescribed the same Tylan regime as before and suggested that I bring her back in a week’s time to be reviewed. Could you please tell me what you think the possible diagnosis may be and what further treatment, if any, would be successful. The rest of the flock are all in good health, and are fed, wormed and cared for correctly.Michael True, via emailA cyst can happen anywhere in the skin and is by definition a closed sac containing liquid or semi-solid substance. If a cyst is not a problem, they are generally best left alone as they do tend to fill up again if drained as the space is still there – removal of the cyst from the skin if it becomes a problem is usually successful as long as there is enough skin to close the deficit. It may be that your hen, quite independently of the cyst and co-incidentally, has contracted a kidney infection, hence the excess white urates in the droppings. Tylan may not be the best family of antibiotics to use here, I would advise a broad spectrum one such as Terramycin. The fact that the others in the flock are healthy is a good sign, but if the kidneys are damaged, she may not recover. VR

Victoria Roberts BVSC MRCVSEmail the Vet’s forum at: vetsforum.csh@archant.co.uk

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