Chicken Passed Away Overnight

Lindsay Jane

In the Brooder
Jul 24, 2018
Central Coast, California
I can home from work yesterday to bad news... my husband went out to the coop that morning to find one of our hens had died.

We had two chickens: Phoenix, a Rhode Island Red, and Pepper, a Plymouth Rock. Phoenix was found in the coop on her side, clearly dead, right under the pole where they sleep. She did not appear to have been attacked, was missing no feathers, did not have mites/fleas/skin issues. She had been acting totally normal, eating, drinking, clucking, scratching through the dirt. She hadn’t payed for a few days, but she also tended to lay a bit more intermittently than Pepper, a daily layer. No sign of being egg-bound or infection. My husband “disposed” of her before I can home, so no necropsy.

Could she have fallen from her roost while sleeping and broken her neck? Is that a thing? Or potentially was sick and we just didn’t know?

Pepper is now alone and we don’t know what to do. We are worried about an illness, though Pepper seems to be totally fine. But so did Phoenix. Pepper lays daily, is vocal and social, eats, drinks, healthy looking, etc.

Should we get another chicken, or should we wait? And should it be about the same age or younger?

Thanks in advance for your help and advice. We are a little lost.
Sorry about your chicken. Very sad. An apparently healthy hen that dies suddenly makes me think of a fractured liver, but it's really impossible to say without a necropsy. I do not think she fell and broke her neck.
Since chickens are social creatures, I'd want to get two new hens of the same age.
Sorry for your loss. It can be common to lose a hen around the one year mark, sometimes to heart problems or a reproductive problem. It would be hard to know for sure without a necropsy, but if she was acting normal, and the other hen still is, then I would go ahead and get 2 more hens. Be careful where you get them, since it can be easy to bring in a carrier of diseases. Some people will sell birds even though they may have been exposed to respiratory and other diseases. Swaps and poultry sales, or Craigslist are definitely not a place to get any. It is good to keep new birds in quarantine for a month, but I would do it at least for 2 weeks, in case respiratory symptoms, such as sneezing, watery/bubbly eye, or rattly breathing should show up.
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There are over 20 different things that can kill a bird suddenly with no symptoms.
It is too bad that the carcass was disposed of. California is very reasonable for necropsies.
Lab work is the only way to get an answer. Otherwise it will always be a mystery.

California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory

University of California, School of Veterinary Med

620 West Health Science Drive

Davis, California 95616

Phone: 530-752-8709

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