Hello All out there in BYC land. I am a novice in the ways and means of chickens- just taken over a flock that came with our property in Invergowrie, NSW, Australia. I have 7 hens and 2 roosters (one is a very cute but fiesty fighting cock, my daughter named him Handsome Gretel and carries him around all over the place- in the house/cradles him like a baby!). I am concerned because 2 of the hens have recently died- one that I was expecting. She had grown a tumor on her leg over the past few months, and I had rung the local vet to see if we could take her for humane euthanasia (I have been a vegetarian for most of my life and could not follow the neighbours' quick solution to my problem!!)- I decided that as soon as she was no longer able to, or interested in food or water, I would take her for the trip to the vets. I left it and left it (finding it hard to make that decision for her when she was still eating and drinking if I brought her fresh water a few times a day). Eventually either the pain paralysed her (she was isolated from the flock by this time), or it was something else (Marek's?? I have heard it contributes to tumors- but I always thought they occurred on internal organs rather than limbs- her tumor was HUGE (the size of a grown mouse) and simply the size of it meant that she hopped rather than walked for a long time before her (timely) demise. Anyway, she died. A day later, an Isa Brown hen, who had been in the best of health, (I thought) appeared to be groggy, sleepy- it took me picking her up to wake her up- she had her beak resting on the ground to hold her head up through her slumberous state. It lasted 24 hours, then she died (we had her in isolation too)- she wasn't interested in anything- could move a bit, but not much- I was worried about the paralysis of Marek's- and wondered if it could be it. We have a problem with venomous brown snakes around here (I had a run in with one in out aviary last December)- and since the weather is getting warmer, I was also thinking that it could have been a small snake bite (for the Isa Brown). What do you all think? Any advice would be good!! I am very keen to learn about caring for chickens- I love them but it has taken a bit to get used to the violence of the pecking order. Thankyou in advance!! Claire.