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Hen dead in coop--ideas on cause?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
*cross-posted in predator forum*

I found my almost 7 year old SLW hen dead right inside the open door of the coop at 4 pm today. Her head was bloody, with the skin on her neck partially torn open. There was a little blood in the coop, but not s lot. Her shoulder blade area was picked clean of feathers, and the feathers were all scattered right around her body inside the coop. No feathers to speak of outside the coop. She did not have any other apparent injuries. I last saw her at 9:30 am when I went out to the coop to give treats and collect eggs. She seemed fine then, happy and scurrying after treats with our other 9 girls. The other hens were acting flustered when I found her body, but none had any sign of injury.

I feel very disturbed, not knowing if she died of natural causes and was subsequently picked at by the other hens, or if something attacked her in/near the open coop door.

During the day, our hens have free range in our fenced acre yard in an urban area. We leave the coop door propped open so they can go in and out. We don't have many predators around--hawks for sure, but we've never seen evidence of raccoons, foxes, etc. it is also snowy here, and I didn't see any obvious tracks around, other than the chickens'. Our dogs were also out in the yard during this time, but they have always been wonderful with the chickens, and I don't think they would have done this. In fact, we leave the dogs out with the hens as a deterrent to hawks. I could picture them sniffing the body, but doubt they would do anything more, based on past experiences with dead things they discovered in the yard (like a partially disemboweled rabbit a couple weeks ago, which we assume was from a hawk).

So, do chicken pluck and pick at each other after death? Or was she more likely attacked? Any ideas? ūüôĀ
post #2 of 9

Chickens do pluck and will pick each other to death. If you have a picture, it would help a lot but it could also be that she snagged on something.

"In the field of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind"

~Louis Pasteur

 

>NPIP certified<

 

Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.

 

 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  (Matthew 10:29)

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"In the field of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind"

~Louis Pasteur

 

>NPIP certified<

 

Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.

 

 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  (Matthew 10:29)

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post #3 of 9


It could be that she was bitten by something and the sight of blood can send chickens into a pecking frenzy. I'm not so sure that you will ever get to the bottom of it to be honest.

 

All the best

CT

Nairobi, Kenya
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Nairobi, Kenya
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post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your thoughts, guys. That does help.  I feel so bad about poor Mrs. Fig--she was such a big and lovely hen, one of the first batch of chicks I ever got.  I do have a picture which I'll post below.  I took it from a bit of a distance because honestly I couldn't bear to look at her poor face too closely until my husband got home to help.  So, I'm not sure how informative this will be, but here goes.....

 

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So, from this you can see that she is lying right inside the coop door (that's the threshold in the foreground by her tail feathers), with feathers all around her.  In case it's not clear, that's her comb showing on the top of her head, not blood.  Our coop was built in two sections, so the door at the top of the picture is the door leading to the back half of the coop.  One odd thing was that the white board you see lying on the ground usually leans against that door to keep it propped open so the hens can access both halves of the coop.  When I found Mrs. Fig out there, the board was knocked down as shown, and 5 hens were trapped in the back section of the coop, looking anxious.  One hen was in the nest box on the same side of the coop with Mrs. Fig, and the other 3 hens were outside hiding under the bushes near the coop.  There must have been some sort of scuffle to knock that board down and trap the 5 hens in the back half, since the board is pretty heavy and it sits down in the leaf mulch, so it doesn't knock down too easily.  It is the cover to the floor hatch in the coop, so it is made out of thick plywood and has a frame and a piano hinge on one side.  But the hens could likely knock it down if they were going crazy in there, and the dogs could have done it if they went in at some point to investigate.

 

To give a little better idea of the set-up, here's the best picture I have handy that shows what the coop usually looks like during the day, with both doors open, including the inner door propped open with the white board standing on its side:

 

 

 

 

I did not take a close-up of Mrs. Fig's face, as I said, but just the right side of her face which was facing upwards was bloody by the eye and cheek, and the skin on the right side of her neck, right by her head, was torn open to reveal a couple square inches of the muscle, etc. below.  The left side of her face (which was against the ground) looked fine, and other than the missing feathers, she had no other signs of injury.

 

There were many more feathers to the right under the hanging waterer:

 

 

There was no blood outside the coop, and very little blood in the coop, just a couple little spots like this on the leaves, and one on the door:

 

 

Given the whole scene, I tend to think she went down somehow, and then the other girls picked at her--assuming that's something chickens might do--which as you both said, does seem to be a possibility.  The fact that so many feathers were pulled out, and that they were all in the coop--I doubt the dogs would have ignored an animal other than the chickens long enough for them to do that kind of extensive plucking.  And the fact that the injuries were all on the side of her head that was facing up--it wasn't like something big and strong was attacking her and moving her around--rather like her body was lying still and being picked at.      

 

The hens are generally very peaceable and haven't ever fought or picked at each other in any serious way before, so I don't think they just decided to attack her.  I think she went down first, and then the others probably started on her--hopefully after she had already passed away....:(  I can't tell how she went down originally, though--if she just keeled over (7 years is pretty old, and she would've been 7 next month...), or if something like a hawk attacked her and she ran into the coop, or what.  You are probably right, CTKen, we will probably never know for sure.  I just wish I had some idea so I knew if the other girls were in continued increased danger from a predator.  They are all locked up in the coop for now, just in case something got the idea that the coop is a good place for an easy meal.....

post #5 of 9


You are most welcome, its just a shame that even with your extensive description and photos i am no closer to being able to help you out. 

 

Good luck - I'm sure its just a one-off, if it was indeed the flock that was stimulated to attack her.

CT

Nairobi, Kenya
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Nairobi, Kenya
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post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks, CTKen--I appreciate your response.  Just the process of typing all that up and looking at the pictures again was helpful for me in processing this and figuring out a little more of what happened.  Thanks for reading it.    

post #7 of 9


No need for thanks - we are here to try and help each other out :)

 

CT

Nairobi, Kenya
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Nairobi, Kenya
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post #8 of 9

weasel. very hard to get rid of. drink blood from neck usually chew off head.

If I knew then what I know now.
www.HealyLawRI.com

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If I knew then what I know now.
www.HealyLawRI.com

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post #9 of 9

could be rats too, but your chickens are on  a roost and they dont usually take down a full size bird. Possum is also a possibility.  any rodent can get through a very small space. get out your cement and wire. put out poison.

If I knew then what I know now.
www.HealyLawRI.com

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If I knew then what I know now.
www.HealyLawRI.com

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