Finding a Dead Chicken Every Morning - HELP!

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by paxicotrader, Feb 3, 2011.

  1. paxicotrader

    paxicotrader Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 16, 2009
    For the past couple of weeks, we've been finding a dead chicken almost every time we open the coop each morning and we can't figure out what's going on. The birds that have died were vigorous and healthy the day before and then dead in the morning, and we find no marks or wounds on them, nor any lost feathers or signs of struggle.

    We have had some bitter temps here (below zero nights) but the coop is full of hay and we keep a light on all the time for warmth. Can anyone help us with this mystery? We sure are getting discouraged! We had around 40 chickens in the Fall and now we're down to just 20......


    NOTE: This did NOT happen ONCE last winter when we also had below zero weather and snow.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2011
  2. Mac in Wisco

    Mac in Wisco Antagonist

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    My best guess is that is that they are getting into scuffles and killing each other. It happens when they start feeling stress from being cooped up all winter. They don't necessarily have to lose feathers or otherwise look molested for the other birds to have done it. Keeping the light on 24/7 can add to their stress.

    Is it possible they are piling at night and birds are smothering?
     
  3. paxicotrader

    paxicotrader Out Of The Brooder

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    Quote:These are some interesting theories, and things I had not considered before. My questions would be:

    1. Would the birds still be feeling "cooped up" when our chicken house is very roomy? It's made to hold about 100 birds, but we only have 25-50 at any given time.
    2. How would they be smothering each other at night, when they are all roosting? (we have a huge perch with plenty of room)
    3. How much stress does the light actually cause? We had it on last winter, too, and no deaths.

    FINALLY

    4. If, despite these facts, the deaths ARE being caused by aggression or smothering.....what's to be done?? We've got lots of winter on the way!
     
  4. Mac in Wisco

    Mac in Wisco Antagonist

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    Quote:Possibly. Do they have to compete for food or water? Are they getting enough water? Is there enough structure in there for birds to escape from aggressors?

    2. How would they be smothering each other at night, when they are all roosting? (we have a huge perch with plenty of room)

    That was just a possibility that may not pertain to your situation. Are there any commotions that could be scaring them at night and inducing a pile up? Are you finding the birds dead on the roosts? Under the roosts? Isolated in a corner where they've went to die? Or sprawled out every which way in the middle of the floor where it's a possibility the other birds may have done it?

    3. How much stress does the light actually cause? We had it on last winter, too, and no deaths.

    I don't know how to quantify that, but they do get kind of edgy and it's a point that the animal rights activists continually bring up. The different humane standards that have been written usually specify a minimum of 8 hours of darkness per day. I've also read that continuous light can lead to spontaneous ovarian cancer in chickens.

    FINALLY

    4. If, despite these facts, the deaths ARE being caused by aggression or smothering.....what's to be done?? We've got lots of winter on the way!

    Make sure they aren't competing for food or water. Give them some structure and low perches. Keep them busy. Hay to pick through or scratch in the bedding keeps them busy. Give them natural light during the day and darkness at night. Make sure there aren't any commotions, critters, rats, whatever, disturbing them at night.

    I could be totally off base on the cause though, and these are just ideas for you to mull over...​
     
  5. paxicotrader

    paxicotrader Out Of The Brooder

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    We always find the dead ones near the roost - on the ground. They are also usually under, or in very close proximity to, the light.

    We will try turning it off and see if that makes a difference. But then I do worry about the temperatures.
     
  6. azhenhouse

    azhenhouse Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I read on this site that hay molds easily. Could it be that maybe some mold got onto the hay and it has spread? Anyway, type in moldy hay in the search engine and read more about it. Good luck!

    One more thing, I use four lights in my coop, I know overkill, at night to keep them warm. I use red heat lamps. During the day I use a white light for extra light. Try the red lamps to keep them warm at night. Mine love them.[​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2011
  7. ravenseye57

    ravenseye57 Out Of The Brooder

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    Next winter try dry leaves instead of hay to avoid mold troubles. The red heat lamp is a good idea too. The fact that you found them under the light could mean that they were cold. Are they a large winter hardy breed? Actually the fact that the house is large may be the problem since it's too big for their body heat to keep warm.

    I have twenty hens and a roo in a small tractor style house. The floor is dirt with a layer of leaves covered with a large sheet of cardboard to hold down moisture from the ground. I just keep adding leaves as it gets poopy. The whole thing is only six by six at the base with one straight wall and one slanted wall that goes up to a four foot wide roof. It has three six foot long 2 X4 perches about 18 inches above the leaves. There's more than enough space and their body heat keeps them warm. It gets quite cold here, we've had kind of a mild winter but it has been down to -10 several times. They have a fenced yard and covered run for daytime space. I use a 100 watt bulb for 15 hours/day but no heat at night.

    I used to use straw and my chickens were often wheezing and sneezing. Since I switched to leaves, they've been fine. I raked up many bags of leaves last Fall when the weather was dry.
     
  8. paxicotrader

    paxicotrader Out Of The Brooder

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    Quote:Oddly enough, the only birds that are dying are the (almost) 1 year olds we got in the spring. Almost all of them are New Hampshire Reds, which ARE heavy and cold hardy.

    We do have some dry leaves mixed in with the hay. Unfortunately, we can't do anything about the size of the coop. It's a huge chicken house that was built before we moved to this farm and the only building we have for them.

    I guess the only thing left to do is just change to a red lamp and pray we don't lose any more.
     
  9. Mac in Wisco

    Mac in Wisco Antagonist

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    Quote:Oddly enough, the only birds that are dying are the (almost) 1 year olds we got in the spring. Almost all of them are New Hampshire Reds, which ARE heavy and cold hardy.

    We do have some dry leaves mixed in with the hay. Unfortunately, we can't do anything about the size of the coop. It's a huge chicken house that was built before we moved to this farm and the only building we have for them.

    I guess the only thing left to do is just change to a red lamp and pray we don't lose any more.

    I really doubt they are dropping dead because of the cold. Are the younger birds smaller than the rest of the flock? Smaller birds tend to take the brunt of any aggression, but I'm not so sure that's what going on.

    You say they look healthy, but are they laying? Have any lost weight? Has water or feed consumption gone down?

    If you think you may have a disease challenge, it may benefit you to contact your state veterinary diagnostics lab and see if you can get a bird in for a necropsy.
     
  10. kiwi-chookn

    kiwi-chookn Out Of The Brooder

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    would they be trying to jump at bugs hanging round the light at night and breaking necks in the process?
     

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