Devastating Unexplained Overnight Loss - Sudden Deaths -

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by osprey28, Jan 18, 2010.

  1. osprey28

    osprey28 New Egg

    Apr 7, 2008
    13 of my 14 hen flock died this past Saturday night and I am at a loss as to the cause. Here are the facts:

    Hens consisted of 4 Black Australorps, 5 Buff Orps, 3 Red Stars, 1 White Orp - ages ranged from 7 months to 2 years. The only survivor was a 4 year old RIR.

    The birds expired in their coop Saturday evening between 8:00 pm and 7:00 am Sunday morn. It it appeared as if they died in their sleep. No evidence of predation (run and coop are very secure). No evidence of disease at all. These birds were thriving by all accounts (eating, drinking, bright red combs, active, laying, solid poop, etc.)

    Their coop is 16 feet long and 4 feet wide with 20 feet of roosting area and 8 nest boxes. The coop backs to a run that measures approx 15x30 feet, however the birds are free ranged daily on an acre of land.

    The waterer is in their run and is clean with water changed out every other day. The feeders are also in the run and feed is clean and dry. The bedding in the coop and nest boxes is pine shavings and was completely changed out about a week and a half earlier. As the birds are free ranged, the bedding stays clean for a while. Every two weeks or so the coop floor and boxes are spot cleaned to remove manure.

    Given the recent cold temps I installed a heat lamp in the coop which is on a timer to go on after dark and off at dawn. For about 3 weeks this worked fine. This weekend we had a thaw with temps getting near 40 degrees. Saturday night I left the rear door of the coop open. The door is a flap design that measures the width of the coop and extends from the floor to approx 20 inches above the floor. My suspicion is that the air inside the coop became unbreathable. Was it too hot? Seemed unlikely as 40 degrees is still pretty cool and the back door was open. Ammonia? Also seemed unlikley as the bedding was recently changed. Some other gas?

    I can't help but think it was my own actions that caused this, I just can't figure exactly what. Any input would be appreciated.
  2. jerseygirl1

    jerseygirl1 Overrun With Chickens

    Jun 20, 2009
    Orange County, NY
    I am so sorry for your loss - I haven't got a clue, but have you used a different feed lately? Moldy, maybe?

    I am so sorry
  3. enola

    enola Overrun With Chickens

    Are they confined when the free roam? Can they get to neighbors' properties, allowing someone to poison them ?
  4. E.G.Glayer

    E.G.Glayer Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 29, 2009
    Blanchester OH
    Wow very devastating, I dont know either, I am very sorry.
    It doesnt sound like it was anything you did, temps should have been ok if 40 outside if it was ammonia gas you would have noticed it before it became deadly. It sounds like you did everything right. The survivor still good to go? Water source is well or county / city supply? Did the survivior if still ok continue drinking from it or eating from the same feed source?
    Problem is you could second guess yourself crazy but I dont think you did anything wrong.
  5. Imp

    Imp All things share the same breath- Chief Seattle

    Gosh I'm so sorry. I haven't a clue about what happened. All at once just doesn't make much sense.

    sorry again

  6. KatyTheChickenLady

    KatyTheChickenLady Bird of A Different Feather

    Dec 20, 2008
    Boise, Idaho
    To me it sounds like they got into some kind of poison when they were free ranging the previous day.
  7. Matt A NC

    Matt A NC Overrun With Chickens

    Feb 22, 2007
    Morganton, NC
    I would guess that the freerangers got into some poison or toxin.

  8. Knucker Hatch Farms

    Knucker Hatch Farms Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 29, 2007
    Atlanta, GA
    That really is devastating. I'm so sorry. I also would agree with the others that have mentioned the chickens getting into something they shouldn't have, if they free range over your yard. The fact that you had almost a total loss within a short time frame really has me envisioning that they all thought they had found something tasty the day of, while the lone survivor might have been away and sitting in the nest box at the time. If they did get into a poison you should be able to have someone confirm it with an autopsy - to settle the questions in your mind, and give you an idea of where to find the source.

    I hope you find your answers soon.

    Warm Regards,

    Mama Knucker Hatch
  9. Robin'sBrood

    Robin'sBrood Flock Mistress

    May 8, 2008
    North Carolina
    So very sorry. [​IMG] [​IMG]
  10. Intheswamp

    Intheswamp Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 25, 2009
    South Alabama
    Was the door opened while you were running the heat lamp? If not, I wouldn't think that opening the door with the warmer temps would suddenly cause a loss of oxygen...just the opposite.

    You might look around in the bushes and be sure there's no dead wild birds. If a truck or "something" came through and "leaked" a hazardous gas it would take out any wild birds roosting close by. ???

    It's also interesting that the oldest bird is the only survivor. Do you know if she had a habit different from the other birds or if there was something that she did or didn't do like the rest of the flock. Maybe didn't drink out of a specific waterer, didn't usually close to a certain fence-line, etc.,.

    Have you used any chemicals in the last day or so for cleaning, pests, germs, etc.,?

    Since the severe cold weather has eased up in many places in the country it seems that I've heared several instances of chickens suddenly dieing for unknown reasons....kind of like, they survived the bitter cold but for some reason apparently healthy birds are keeling over in the warmer air. ???


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