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? 🙁