Dead chicken with a wet head? Three theories...


8 Years
May 19, 2011
I've never needed to post here before because there's always answers buried in the forums already, but the answer to this one isn't in here...

Today was the third day our new (and our first ever) flock was in their coop and one has died. The death occurred in the afternoon and I found the hen outside the coop, up against the fence inside the attached yard. Her head and neck were sopping wet, but the rest of the body was dry. There was a tiny trickle of blood along her beak. No sign of illness, attack, or injury, the other birds seem happy and healthy. No signs of a predator breaking in to the coop. It was quite hot today, in the mid-90s.

The chickens are five weeks old. We have ten hens of various breeds and the dead bird was one of three mixed-breed "Easter Eggers." The home-made coop is in almost full shade and is up off the ground about a foot or so, with open access to an outside fenced (and topped) run, as well as access to under the coop. There's grass and cool ground inside the yard and under the coop. There are two fount waterers, one inside and one outside.

Here's my three theories:

Heat - because it was really hot out and maybe they weren't ready for such extreme temperatures. But that doesn't make sense because they had plenty of access to water, the coop is in the shade, and the ground is grassy and cool, especially under the coop. Plus, no other chickens show signs of distress. And what about the wet head?

Snake - I read that a wet head and neck can indicate an attempted snake attack - but the bird was too big to be swallowed and the snake gave up and left. That seems far-fetched to me, as I've never seen a snake in our yard. Ever. But I suppose it's possible. What can one do to fend off a future snake attack, anyway? Is it possible to snake proof a coop?

Choked to death - she stuck her head through the chicken wire to get a weed, got it stuck and strangled herself. Her head and neck are wet as a result of the horribleness of the choking incident and only after death did her body flop limp and she fell back inside. But is that really realistic? Would a chicken get stuck in a fence like that?

What say you, oh sages of the internet chicken forum? Are my theories sound? Which do you like best? Or do you have another idea? Thanks!
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I have no idea but where do you think the blood came from? so sorry for your loss
and not good circumstances but
I've had something similar happen before except it was at night and the chickens were on the roost or in the coop. I attributed it to a snake because it was the only thing that made sense at the time. For a snake to catch an active chicken in the day time might be reaching a bit for an explanation.

To make a coop snake proof is pretty tough. You have to close every hole or crack big enough for a snake to get through. A good sized snake can get through a hole smaller than a quarter.
I'm inclined to think that she was killed by a snake that tried to but was unable to swallow her. Rolled bird netting or even inch mesh chicken wire can be used to entangle snakes. Hopefully it will not try again.
Im going through the same thing! this evening I went to check on my chickens who are in a big chicken coop enclosure inside of a bank barn. the coop is covered from top to bottom with two-three small two inch holes that something small or (snake) could get in, I came in and did my daily head count and noticed one was missing, then glanced down stretched out along the corner where the floor meets the wall she was dead and her head and neck were wet looking. I am new to chicken raising and have had these guys since they were born so Im so upset. I was told when I got them that snakes would go after their eggs not them. but I cant seem to find out what could have happened to her other then a snake...
The exact same thing just happened to me yesterday! Chicks are about 5 weeks old and are spunky and seemed healthy. I checked in on everyone in the morning and went back out at lunch and one was dead on its back in the middle of the coop and had a wet head. In 4 years, I've never seen any sign of a snake and I have a hard time believing this is what happened. Our coop is a tight, heavy gauge mesh and there are 20 other hens in there, so if a small snake would have gotten in, they would have killed it (I think). I'm completely baffled.
I'm going to go with failed snake attack on this one because I found one of our five week old ducklings randomly dead with a wet head a month ago. I assumed it had drown, but that didn't add up to me because no other part of it was wet and the water dish was not very deep and the duckling was not in the dish. Then this weekend I came home to a black rat snake in the coop right after it ate one of our two week old ducklings. It was stuck in the coop because of the bulge of our little duckling. I tried relocating it a mile down the road and it was back the next day trying to get at the other larger duckling. Needless to say the baby is now living in the house until it's big enough. Snakes are tough things to keep out and I like having black snakes around as much as I like the ducks. We have an electric fence around our coop as well and it's not phased by it at all! Hoping it will find something else to hunt now, but if I see it in the coop again I'll have to relocate it miles and miles away this time!

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