Anyone have bunch of Prairie Blues noticed sudden death?

Tom Kathleen

Songster
5 Years
Mar 18, 2017
49
52
119
We have 150 laying hens of about 13 different breeds. We had 15 Praire Blues that are 18 months (a blue layer mixed with a leghorn purchased from one of those national hatcheries -- so probably terrible genetics). We had never had this "breed" before and initially liked them. They were an easy breed to raise, pretty and decent temperment -- not aggressive, not so friendly they get under foot, but not crazy and stupid like leghorns -- skittish but not insane. Every 2 months one comes up dead. This doesn't happen with any of the other breeds, we've never seen anything like it. It's happened 3 times right now. We were out of town and it upset the kid watching the hens that the hen seemed listless, so he separated it. Then that afternoon was dead.

No signs of mites, no sign of injury, or fatal laying problem, not under weight. I know i SHOULD do an autopsy to look for congenital tract deformities, tumors, organ problems, but I don't have it in me and I care for my 83 year old dad fulltime in addition to running the farm and driving to the post office to send in a corpse for autopsy isn't something I can find time for between his diaper changes, feedings, and me trying to stay sane. This obviously isn't our first rodeo with chickens, and it's not upsetting (unlike many other ways chickens die between fox strikes, or a tract issue or a tumor -- we allow our chickens to live out their natural life, so some of the older ones can have isses and we've seen a lot). My gut says they might be prone to problems, or that we got some that were badly bred (they're not a terribly popular breed). I just wanted to see if anyone else has had this happen. It's not a flock problem, it's VERY specific to these handful of chickens. I definitely will think twice again before buying them, which is frustrating because I really liked them overall.

If one of the experts feels this would be better in the "breed discussion" thread or a different thread, please repost over there. Because it's not a "real" breed and because this is such an odd question, I posted it here. It's not an emergency, these are sold as a breed, but in my mind don't really qualify as a breed (more of a hatchery specialty mix:).

Thanks for taking the time to read this! Hope for some insight.
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
12 Years
Nov 12, 2009
10,881
17,783
726
western South Dakota
Years ago, I had a very similar thing happen. Once a month, a chicken would just be dead. When the third one died, I was like you, what the heck?

Never had another one for years. Hope that happens to you. I too liked the prairie blues. I do think it was a congenital defect, and the others were fine.

Mrs K
 

Tom Kathleen

Songster
5 Years
Mar 18, 2017
49
52
119
Years ago, I had a very similar thing happen. Once a month, a chicken would just be dead. When the third one died, I was like you, what the heck?

Never had another one for years. Hope that happens to you. I too liked the prairie blues. I do think it was a congenital defect, and the others were fine.

Mrs K
Thank you for the reassurance! When you've had so many chickens and you think you've "seen it all" and then something happens, it's puzzling and it really helped me that you took the time to reply! Years ago when I first got chickens I used to fret and over-react to everything and now I can assess a hen's condition and know the treatment and have it on hand -- and we've had some weird things because we free range them. There really seems like NO noticeable cause and the ones that died when I was here, we went over them very carefully (everything except cutting them open). My gut was saying congenital (a bad batch -- we have 3 foster cats from the same litter and they were very in-bred and have zillions of problems I've never seen in a cat before -- I'm sure the same can happen with hatchery factory-type production runs). I'm going to keep an eye on them, but I feel better knowing that defects might be an issue and that someone else has has something similar happen. Sudden death isn't terribly common, and to have 3 all of the same breed within 6 months was shocking.
 

Ebony Rose

Free Ranging
13 Years
May 26, 2009
2,921
6,645
511
David, Chiriquí, Panama
I have not had the type of chickens that you have.

I have had 'production reds' and will never have them again.

My girls seemed perfectly healthy until point-of-lay, then randomly started dropping dead, most before they'd even laid eggs for a half-year.
A few years of this cycle, had me rethinking if I really wanted to raise my own chickens for eggs and meat. About the time I'd figure out a name for each based on their looks or quirks, they'd suddenly take a trip to heaven.

I finally gained the confidence to 'just' do a few down-and-dirty, at home, semi-necropsies. These 'necropsies' involved cutting the meat off of the bird to make opening their chest cavity easier so I could examine their internal organs.

I discovered that my girls were dying of reproductive organ failure, more often than not internal laying leading to peritonitis and/or sepsis. My girls often had cancer on their livers and ovaries. Heart failure is also strongly suspected as many of them had enlarged hearts even when they and their flock were not overweight.

I understand that at the end of your day, you're all-in and totally wrung out. I'm hoping that you can see your way clear to perform this sort of 'necropsy', where you're really only interested in examining their internal organs and not every single aspect of your girls' anatomy, will reduce the amount of time needed to offer you clues to what is going on with this specific type of bird in your flock.

Keeping you, your family, and your feathered family in my prayers.
 

vintage

Songster
Feb 25, 2021
247
467
156
Ky
I have not had the type of chickens that you have.

I have had 'production reds' and will never have them again.

My girls seemed perfectly healthy until point-of-lay, then randomly started dropping dead, most before they'd even laid eggs for a half-year.
A few years of this cycle, had me rethinking if I really wanted to raise my own chickens for eggs and meat. About the time I'd figure out a name for each based on their looks or quirks, they'd suddenly take a trip to heaven.

I finally gained the confidence to 'just' do a few down-and-dirty, at home, semi-necropsies. These 'necropsies' involved cutting the meat off of the bird to make opening their chest cavity easier so I could examine their internal organs.

I discovered that my girls were dying of reproductive organ failure, more often than not internal laying leading to peritonitis and/or sepsis. My girls often had cancer on their livers and ovaries. Heart failure is also strongly suspected as many of them had enlarged hearts even when they and their flock were not overweight.

I understand that at the end of your day, you're all-in and totally wrung out. I'm hoping that you can see your way clear to perform this sort of 'necropsy', where you're really only interested in examining their internal organs and not every single aspect of your girls' anatomy, will reduce the amount of time needed to offer you clues to what is going on with this specific type of bird in your flock.

Keeping you, your family, and your feathered family in my prayers.
As difficult as it might be to do something like that yourself, given OP's situation, I would. For peace of mind.
 

Ebony Rose

Free Ranging
13 Years
May 26, 2009
2,921
6,645
511
David, Chiriquí, Panama
By examining the deceased chickens' organs, I was able to put a name to their disease, recognize the symptoms earlier in the remaining living members of the flock and gained a tremendous amount of peace of mind that it wasn't my fault.
After an examination of the organs of these birds that OP has that are dying, a pattern may emerge that will answer the question... is this a predisposition for this type of bird.
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
12 Years
Nov 12, 2009
10,881
17,783
726
western South Dakota
Wow - are you a vet? I have looked at a lot of entrails, but I don't think I could identify a disease.

I take good care of my birds, but I do expect them to die, so I don't feel guilty about that. To each his own. I just swear, dispose of the bird and move on.

Mrs K
 

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