I'm new to Back Yard Chickens.com, so will give you a bit of my background. I have been involved with pet chickens since 2009. My initial reason for wanting chickens was that I needed a natural way to keep the tick population under control, especially in my barn. I'd thought about getting chickens to handle that task for eight years, but my first three Rhode Island Reds showed up thru pure serendipity....my husband's co-worker needed to find a home for them. That's when I discovered just how entertaining pet chickens are! Over the years, I've had many chickens, but alas most have fallen victim to predators. We have 7 acres and I allow my birds to free-range. My birds' lives have been relatively short but very happy. And I know that the hawks and foxes need to eat, so I don't begrudge them the meals. I have one very clever Silver-Laced Wyandotte who is now 4 years old as well as her rooster son who is 1 1/2. This Spring, I ordered 24 peeps to start a new flock (and to provide the hawks with more food).
My husband has long been opposed to my "survival of the fittest" philosophy and has advocated for keeping the chickens confined. Of course this defeats the purpose of tick control as well as the delight of them being mobile yard art. This year I finally compromised. We've had two unused dog kennels in the backyard so finally decided to re-purpose them for use as chicken coops. We purchased two inexpensive chicken house kits and installed wire fencing over the tops of the 8' x 13' kennels. I decided to leave them in the backyard where the kennels will be shaded.
At 4 weeks of age, I put 6 Dominques in one kennel, 6 Welsummers in the other kennel, and moved the other 12 chicks out to the barn. All of the birds seemed to be thriving for for the first two weeks.
Recently, the weather here has turned cold and damp. I hadn't checked on the birds for 48 hours. On Wednesday after work, I went out to fill the chicks' feeders and was horrified to discover this:
At first I thought her head was gone, but it's just folded back under her. When I flipped over her body, this was what I saw:
It's difficult to tell, but her abdomen appears to be torn open. I am totally at a loss about what may have killed this bird. She wasn't near the fence, so I doubt that a predator reached in and grabbed her. She had all her extremities---seems like the most likely thing a raccoon might have grabbed -and if the abdomen damage was a result of a through-the-fence attack, seems like there'd be feathers around the area, or even that she'd still be hung up in the fence. I don't think anything got into the pen, as the other five chicks are still alive. My other thoughts are that she may have injured herself by jumping off the roof of the house and "bled out", and the rain just washed away any blood. Hard to believe there is so much meat remaining if it were a predator attack. Could all of this damage just be the result of her dead body lying on the ground for over 24 hrs? Did her siblings "murder" her? This seems like one of those "locked-door murder mysteries". I truly hope this death was not the result of some sort of predator, otherwise this entire effort to keep the birds safe will have completely backfired. I guess the next step will be to install some sort of "spy camera" to keep track of the goings on in the coops. When I checked on the birds Thursday afternoon, there was no further carnage.
My main reason for posting this here is to find out if there might be some medical reason that can explain this death. I'd hate to find out that chicken guts can "explode" when exposed to damp chilly environs. I wish I'd been a bit less squeamish and had examined the corpse more closely (maybe a broken neck? with the consequent tissue damage just resulting from natural decay?)
Thank you in advance for any advice on possible causes of death for this bird.