Chickens suddenly killed a coop mate

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by caralinaj, Jan 6, 2016.

  1. caralinaj

    caralinaj New Egg

    3
    0
    7
    Jan 6, 2016
    Came out today to find one of our chickens had been killed by the others. She was laying outside with all the feathers missing from her neck and blood spread around the coop. I have no idea why this would have happened so I am hoping someone else has an idea.

    Some Background: We live in Montana where there has been snow on the ground consistently for the last two months. We have (had) 7 chickens all raised together from chicks and about 10 months old. 2 Reds, 2 Silver Lace Wyandottes, 2 Spotted Sussex, and 1 Blue Andalusian. The Andalusian was the one that got killed. She always seemed like the top hen.

    The chickens just seem genuinely unhappy and cooped up. They haven't been venturing into their outside run much with the snow and they mostly just hang out inside the 8x5 coop. They love getting to free roam outside the pen but we haven't been able to do that with it getting dark so early. I'm not really sure what to do for them. I give them a head of lettuce every few days which makes them happy for the few minutes it takes for them to eat it.

    Any ideas to help them get through the winter months without killing each other appreciated.
     
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Let It Snow Premium Member

    18,195
    6,899
    496
    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    I shovel my run and put down hay or shavings, the hay gives them something to dig around in, your birds are bored, you need to get them outside, most chickens don't like walking on snow so put something down, throw out scratch and shag them outside on nice days. I would also get a flock block to give them something to peck at besides each other. Once blood gets drawn it escalates quickly, make sure they can get away from each other.
     
  3. caralinaj

    caralinaj New Egg

    3
    0
    7
    Jan 6, 2016
    Great Ideas! I was thinking about shoveling their pen. I will look into the flock block :)
     
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    36,590
    10,266
    686
    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Are you positive the other chickens killed the one?
    That's pretty rare, tho they might feed off a dead flock mate, especially if lots of blood was spilled.
    If she was top hen in a cockless flock, she may have been trying to ward off a predator and was the first(only) to fall.

    What time of day/night did death occur?
    Describe your coop and run..or post pics.
    Did you examine the area surrounding the coop/run for predator tracks?

    What all are you feeding?
    They need plenty of protein, other foods can dilute the protein level of feed.
    Flock block is like junk food/candy bars...gorging on it can make them sick.

    Space is important, I shovel parts of my run too so they can get outside.
    Spread some scratch grains, and some hay/straw for sure footing on snow pack.
     
  5. caralinaj

    caralinaj New Egg

    3
    0
    7
    Jan 6, 2016
    Thanks for the thoughts.

    I not sure how anything else could have gotten into the coop. The outside run is made out of dog kennel panels bolted to the coop with a chicken wire roof. Plus we have seen the chickens pecking on each other recently so we are suspecting that they took it too far.

    We are feeding free choice layer feed with 16% protein plus cracked corn and grit. I am not sure what else to feed them. I think they really miss the fresh grass they were getting in the summer and fall. I think I will buy hay to pad their run and they can peck at that. I just hope that will keep them happy until spring gets here.
     
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    36,590
    10,266
    686
    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Weasels can get thru chain link and chicken wire...and they eat at the neck mostly just drinking blood.

    I like to feed a 'flock raiser' 20% protein crumble to all ages and genders, as non-layers(chicks, males and molting birds) do not need the extra calcium that is in layer feed and chicks and molters can use the extra protein. Makes life much simpler to store and distribute one type of chow that everyone can eat. I do grind up the crumbles (in the blender) for the chicks for the first week or so.

    The higher protein crumble also offsets the 8% protein scratch grains and other kitchen/garden scraps I like to offer. I adjust the amounts of other feeds to get the protein levels desired with varying situations.

    Calcium should be available at all times for the layers, I use oyster shell mixed with rinsed, dried, crushed chicken egg shells in a separate container.

    Animal protein (mealworms, a little cheese - beware the salt content, meat scraps) is provided during molting and if I see any feather eating.
     
  7. BBQJOE

    BBQJOE Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,343
    276
    176
    Sep 25, 2015
    Void where prohibited.
    Sometimes chickens just up and die. Their flock mates will try to eat them. It doesn't necessarily mean they killed it though.
     
  8. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

    4,878
    1,581
    366
    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    A dead chicken will not bleed. That does sound like a weasel to me, but usually they get in, they kill a lot! Did you see blood on the other chickens?

    I have hay, if I know it is going to snow, I pitch it up into a mini hay stack, after the snow, I just pitch it on top of the snow, and the flock comes right out.

    Mrs K
     
  9. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Let It Snow Premium Member

    18,195
    6,899
    496
    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Didn't ever think about doing it that way, I just go out after the snow and shovel than use a pitch fork to pull the hay up and fluff it, your way sounds smarter.
     
  10. azygous

    azygous True BYC Addict

    10,754
    4,152
    501
    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    About a year or so ago, there was a post on one of the forums very, very similar to yours. The OP swore up and down that the chicken was killed by the others and that the coop and run was just as it always was, with no sign of any way a predator could have gotten in. Thankfully, the OP was very receptive to the multiple suggestions that urged them to set up a game cam in the exact spot where the dead chicken was discovered.

    Much to the surprise of the OP, the camera showed a raccoon entering through a very tiny crack where coop and run abutted, and the raccoon proceeded to kill another chicken in that exact spot, all captured graphically.

    I've spent six years on these forums and almost always it's a predator responsible for the bloody death of a chicken. It almost never happens that chickens kill each other in the fashion you are describing. So many predators can collapse their bodies to squeeze through the smallest cracks to gain entry. And owls are very good at this also, folding up into a torpedo shape to fly through the narrowest of openings.

    If you can borrow a game cam from a friend, it would be a big help. Or just go over your structures very carefully from the very bottom of the fence to the top where fencing and walls meet the roof. And you would do well to attach half inch hardware cloth around the lower three or four feet of your run if it's unmodified chain link, sinking it down into the soil several inches angled outward.
     
    1 person likes this.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by