Today I found one of my hens dead in our coop. Here is the back story:
We have 7 Barred Rock pullets (all our girls will be a year in April) 7 Jersey Giants and one Jersey Giant roo. They live in a 10x10 horse stall and have always seemed to have plenty of room to run around. They have 6 nesting boxes and a big roost and one of our barred rocks enjoys roosting up in the rafters from time to time.
All of our girls are bald from Rooroo the horny rooster. It's not terrible and I haven't seen any of the girls pecking at each others' bald spots. We also had an egg eating Giant we had to cull in the early fall. We caught her at it and tried to rehabilitate her to no avail. After we went away over Christmas (& had a friend sitting the chickens) we got a little suspicious we had another egg eater.
soooo... about 2 weeks ago my daughter and I noticed that one of our girls had a bald strip on her neck. It was clean bald - no peck marks and no empty feather holes either - it looked like smooth skin. She might have been a little bit smaller than the others. She was "talking" to us and hanging around next to the rooster -- it looked like for protection. and our Barred Rocks were talking back at her. Both my daughter and I felt like she was tattling on them and they were yelling at her. I wondered if she might have been the egg eater by the way she was acting and the way the other girls pushed her around when she got on the roost outside the nesting boxes. (The girls also have gotten really protective of their eggs even when I collect them.)
This afternoon I went to collect the eggs and I found 'bald neck' dead under a nesting box. A hen was nesting in the box above her with a broken egg in it (it looked like someone got stopped from eating the egg mid-egg - I've found that before too). Could the girls have killed her? There was no blood or peck marks on her - she was not egg bound - she was acting completely normally this morning. and I've kept a special eye on her because I was worried she was an egg eater OR that the missing feathers meant something.
She had no mites that I could see... I have no idea -- I mean do chickens have freak accidents? I didn't check her out too thoroughly - just her vent and her feathers for obvious mites. Could the girls have scared her to death? I wish I had a pullet cam to figure out what happened. They did get some free time outside during the warm weather we had the other day - other than that it's been a bad week for getting out. I gave them no special treats or different feed... She was eating well enough - again I was keeping an eye on her to see if she was getting pushed around.
Any thoughts or might this just be one of those things? Sorry this is kind of inarticulate... I'm still in shock.