dead chicken, no wounds, only missing a few tail feathers


9 Years
Aug 29, 2010
Southern Oregon
Some of our chickens have been sleeping in a doug fir tree. Last night we heard a commotion and ran out to find one chicken dead on the ground, with no marks on her, just 4 missing tail feathers which were on the ground under the tree. The rest of the chickens huddled under a bush near the base of the pine tree.

We have electric wire fencing. I saw no evidence of fencing amiss.

We did have a fox or perhaps fox and skunk attack over the summer. I just thought last night's was weird, since the predator didn't mark or make off with the prey, and rest of the chickens weren't scattered, but huddled under a bush. They huddle under that bush when hawks come around, so I wonder if it might have been an owl. Or, could a skunk have made a try, then gotten scared off by the commotion of the flock?

The dead chicken has no bruising today, so I'm not sure what killed her, broken neck?

Thanks in advance for any light you can shed on this!
Forgot to say, I found the dead hen about 25 feet away from the tree, down the hill, as if she'd been running. So, I ruled out death by illness or simply falling out of the tree. :)
I'm no expert, but it really sounds like something broke her neck and tried to make off with her, but probably got spooked when you came out to investigate.
What I'm not sure about is whether there would be puncture marks or bruising if some animal had her in its mouth carrying her off. I see nothing! What do you think?
I'm sorry for your loss :(

I know you found her 25 feet down the hill from the tree, but I'm still going to say I think it was internal injuries sustained from falling out of the tree...especially if there were absolutely no bruises/wounds of any kind at all. It could have been broken neck or spine...or damage to her organs that did it. I do think something probably startled your chickens (hawk, fox or what have you) but that this particular one fell amidst the chaos and was fatally injured (unless you have since found wounds on her).

Whatever happened, that is a very sad little end and I'm so sorry.

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