Dead Chicken and other issues...

hqueen13

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Yesterday morning I went into the coop to let the girls out and found a dead chicken. I've only had these birds since November, they were not supposed to be that old, maybe a year, and a friend picked them up from a lady who was part of a co-op but was downsizing for the winter. Their beaks were clipped, and they acted like they didn't get out much and weren't fed many scraps or interesting food bits.
From the beginning one chicken was getting picked on, to the point where she was sleeping outside the coop at night. So I put her in a wire dog crate and that's where she's lived ever since. I've made a few attempted to get her back in with the flock but haven't been successful. Interestingly enough, she also lays the LARGEST eggs of the group. They're supposed to be the same age, but she lays super jumbo eggs. The friend that picked the birds up for me says she's seen chickens lay large eggs from the start, but out of all the chickens I cared for on the farm where I worked (several hundred over a few years) I never saw any that laid eggs this big while they were young. They were always several years old, and getting close to not laying anymore when they did.
So things don't seem to be quite normal with this group anyway, and then yesterday I came in to find a dead chicken (not the one in the cage, either). I told the BF about it and he said when he closed the coop up the night before that there was one bird acting broody, so it must have been her. I fed them shrimp shell scraps a few days before, but I can't see why that would have bothered one bird and not the rest. I also hadn't noticed any other odd behavior up until then.
It's really strange, and I'm not happy about it, but there isn't much to be done about it now. I just wondered if anyone had any thoughts.

We're in the process of building a new coop to move the layers closer to the house (we have to drive to take care of them right now) (and I totally forgot to take pics of the process, sorry! I'll take pics when it's done!), and when we move them I'm going to make one more attempt to get Princess chicken acclimated with the flock since it will be a completely new location. Maybe they'll leave her alone if the territory is completely new to all of them. I can't understand what's different about her that they bother her, either.
 

NH Homesteader

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Sorry about your chicken. I have no clue either. We got 4 free birds this winter and one of them was missing feathers everywhere and obviously being beaten on by the others. They haven't bothered her here, I can't even tell which one it is. So maybe a new place will help!
 

sumi

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Their beaks were clipped, and they acted like they didn't get out much and weren't fed many scraps or interesting food bits.

Were these birds from a battery egg production farm?

I had 40 hens from an establishment like that a few years ago and never, ever again. They have almost no immune system, compared to my barnyard mixes that grew up free ranging. They're great layers when they get going, but they struggled a bit to handle the free range lifestyle and were quite weak. Sudden, unexplained deaths like your hen's took a few of mine.
 

lcertuche

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I have only had young chickens that suddenly were dead in the coop. I finally realized that my large chickens were probably landing on the small chickens coming off the roost in the morning. I just happened to witness one occurrence. If it is an older chicken I would guess that the chicken may actually be older than known. It would be easy to miss one hen when culling the old hens in a large population. Another thought is the hen may have been egg bound. Large eggs are a common reason for this. The hen can act broody, hanging around on the nest. You might open her up and see what she looks like inside if you can bring yourself to do this. The fast growing chickens that are bred to lay early and burnout quick unfortunately.
 

Mini Horses

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Sorry about your hen. It's always sad to lose one & sometimes we don't know why. Older ones can just drop on you as they "wear out" on the inside. Sometimes a necropsy can help..or not.


The fast growing chickens that are bred to lay early and burnout quick unfortunately.

This is so sadly true. I love my heritage, home breds. When I buy chicks or eggs to set it is normally from individual breeder farms, vice hatcheries.
 

MoonShadows

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Sorry to hear about your chicken. I had that happen to one of mine a couple of years ago. One minute I saw her walking around; a few minutes later she was lying dead on the ground with no obvious signs of how she died.

From Mother Earth...and, there are other articles online if you search sudden chicken death.

Causes of Sudden Chicken Death
I’ve done some reading and some talking with other chicken owners since that time. Apparently, it’s not entirely uncommon for this sort of thing to happen.

Heart attack: Sudden death is a pretty well known syndrome among fast-growing broiler chickens. The birds die with a “short, terminal, wing-beating convulsion” and often flip on their back. The cause is a heart attack. Recent research suggests the heart attack is triggered by stress; the chickens seem predisposed to heart attacks because of microscopic lesions in the muscle of their hearts.

Egg-bound: Layer chickens can die if a fully-formed egg gets stuck somewhere between their shell gland and vent. Possible causes: the egg is too big, there is injury to the reproductive tract that blocks the egg, or the chicken has hypocalcemia (calcium deficiency). Overweight chickens are prone to getting egg-bound. So are young hens that are pushed to lay before they’re fully mature. Egg-bound death isn't sudden; there are signs that a hen is egg-bound and a few steps you can take to move the egg. However, the blockage often isn’t discovered until after the chicken is dead and owners can be caught by surprise.

“We all got to go sometime”: Accidents happen. A chicken could ingest something poisonous. One bird could jump down from a high roost on to another bird. Heck, a chicken could just run into a wall too hard. Once I had a chicken get a single toe stuck in the edge of the coop loft and hang upside down for a couple hours before I found her. The bird was fine once I got her unstuck but the point is: weird accidents happen.

How important is it to find an answer when a chicken suddenly dies? That’s completely up to you. Like with all things chicken-related, it comes down to paying careful attention to all your birds. If you have reason to suspect contagion or disease, or notice abnormal behavior in other chickens in the flock, get the dead bird examined immediately. If the rest of your chickens keep doing their happy chicken things as normal, maybe it’s not a high priority. As one chicken owner put it: “Where there’s livestock, there’s deadstock.”

The only unsettling thing about having no obvious reason for the death is there’s nothing concrete you can change or improve as a matter of prevention and protection for the rest of your birds.
 

hqueen13

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It wasn't Princess chicken (the one that lays the jumbos and is in the cage that died, it was another). I don't know if she was egg bound or not, I probably should have checked. Is it possible to tell that from the outside?

@sumi - not necessarily a battery egg laying operation, but definitely a bigger operation than I appreciate. If you have to clip beaks it's a big operation in my opinion, and the birds are obviously being kept in a way that prevents them from doing what they do naturally and thus there is a risk of them picking on each other instead.

@MoonShadows - Thanks for that info.

We had a couple hot days last week, and then it cooled off rapidly. I wonder if she was egg bound. I didn't notice any unusual behavior previously, other than the broody issue that my BF noticed the night before. I guess that was the sign and we missed it. I didn't have time to poke at her very much that morning as I had quite a lot of things to get done. Their egg production has been up and down anyway, I think due to those few hot days and they are slowly recovering now.
 

NH Homesteader

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I had some from a moderately sized operation, clipped beaks and all. They adjusted to free ranging and did great (after a while anyway), we gave them away to a friend and one is still alive and free ranging now... She would be about 7. The rest were fox food, sadly.
 

hqueen13

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Yeah, I don't expect this operation was huge, but big enough to feel the need to clip beaks :(
They have adjusted well for the most part, but with them not tolerating Princess, and now this one dying, they just don't seem to be as hearty as some of the other birds I've dealt with.
 
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