Chickens traumatized over death of their mate

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by azygous, Oct 14, 2016.

  1. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    After nine years of keeping chickens, this was a new experience. I've had chickens die before, but it's never seemed to affect the survivors like this one has.

    Sometime early this morning, one of the six-month old pullets who inhabit the rear coop off my run died. There was evidence she may have had a violent seizure. There are five chickens that roost in that coop, and none of them wanted to go in tonight.

    The coop is also occupied by a six-year old hen and her nine-week old chick. Even they were traumatized and didn't want to go in, but the three surviving six-month old pullets were frantic to do anything to avoid it. They even tried to get into the front coop where all the rest of the older flock members sleep, and they quickly found out they weren't welcome.

    Every time I tried to get the pullets to go into their own coop, they would pop right back out, and they were even flinging themselves at the outside of the front coop in an attempt to get in, even though they've never roosted there.

    There was no predator responsible for the death of their mate. She died of natural causes, not a mark on her perfect little body. Yet, simply witnessing her death throes, was enough to freak the rest of them out to the extent they were afraid to go back where it had happened.

    The older hen and her chick finally went in to the coop to roost, and I gathered up two of the pullets in my arms, talking to them soothingly while walking them around to the big door to the coop. I got inside with them and coaxed the third pullet in. Then I held them all like little children while talking quietly to them. I finally was able to put them on the perch and calmed them down and then they stayed.

    Chickens have more complex emotions than we give them credit for, it would seem.
    1 person likes this.
  2. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Flockless Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    Thats a very interesting insight into chicken behaviour, and thanks for sharing it with us. Sorry about the loss of your pullet.
  3. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Thanks, CT.
  4. BurntFeather

    BurntFeather Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 7, 2015
    People who do not raise chicken cannot comprehend how intelligent they are. It is truly sad that they were so traumatized. I hope those chicks are able to get passed this and grow to be great layers and an asset to your coop.
  5. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Thanks. I've been watching their combs slowly turn redder and have been measuring their butt bones, and she was sooo close! It was so sad to lose her.
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Aww, that sorry. :(
    I'm sure the commotion has made the other birds wary...they don't know what happened...who knows, in their minds maybe it was a predator.
  7. Trish1974

    Trish1974 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 16, 2016
    North Central IN
    So true, BurntFeather. I have always heard how "stupid" chickens were, but now that I have my own flock I am amazed daily at how intelligent they really are. That aside, I have witnessed how freaked out my neighbor's flock was when an eagle killed their rooster back in June. It took several months for their behavior to return to normal.
  8. appps

    appps Overrun With Chickens

    Aug 29, 2012
    That seems a severe reaction. How do you know she had a seizure if there is no mark on her? I think I'd be checking for a snake, could explain the nervousness.
  9. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Believe me, I thought about that. But it's highly unlikely, if not impossible. My coops are elevated to the degree it would be nearly impossible for a snake to get in, even if it was able to penetrate the hardware cloth skirting around my run. My run and coops are 99.9% predator proof. (That last .1% vulnerability is to bears.)

    I have lymphotic leucosis in my flock. This is the likely cause of death - tumors on the heart are common, and that could cause a seizure and death. I've lost quite a few chickens to the disease over the years, though most of my flock are healthy and resistant to it, the oldest being up in the seven and eight-year old age range.

    I suspected a seizure because the coop bedding had been flung out both coop pop holes. I've had chickens go into seizure in front of me, so I can visualize the process.
  10. Have you ever considered Culling and starting over? I am not saying to do that at all....I have suspected ILT here and was told to cull all mine and start over...I never did...I manage it....We all get attached to our flocks....Sorry your dealing with something so awful in your Birds..

    Best of luck...


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