Fine one day, dead the next! Help!


Jun 7, 2015
My 7 month old leghorn has been laying for about a week or two now. My husband couldn't find her this morning and found her brooding 7 eggs. Sneaky girl! Anyways, she's the leader of my flock and is usually the first to the food (besides the Ducks of course) and she didn't come running today. She isn't the type to let anybody handle her but he was able to pick her up and move her close to the food and water, and when he came back out she hadn't moved. The ducks even decided to take advantage a bully her. He brought her inside and she was extremely lethargic and basically unresponsive to anything that would bother a healthy bird. She passed a bit ago now and I haven't got a clue what in the world is going on/what happened! We haven't changed anything. She gets layer food. They have free reign of the yard during the day, but there isn't anything for her to get into. She was perfectly fine and herself yesterday. I've scowered the internet but I can't find anything that matches what just happened, and so fast?! Any thoughts? Any similar experiences? We're new to this, so any help would be much appreciated.

Gary & Brit
Without symptoms you need to have a necropsy done. Lab work is the only way to be sure.
Anything else would be a guess since the list of things that can cause sudden death in a chicken includes at least 15 diseases/conditions.
Most states, nations have poultry labs that will do one free or at reasonable cost.
Where do you live?
We're in Washington state. Those seven eggs that she laid, is it possible she laid them all yesterday? She was in the coop the night before, and it's my understanding that hens will sleep wherever their laying their eggs? If they aren't gathered regularly I mean. I just don't see that many eggs surviving in the yard where she had them without the other birds and our dogs bothering/eating them...
Not possible. She's been building the clutch for at least a week. Perhaps with help from others.
They select sheltered places so they won't be found.
Hens won't bother to sleep with the eggs till they're ready to start incubating.
Most leghorns aren't setters, she was likely just laying eggs there.
I did have a black leghorn hen that raise about 2 broods a year for me but she was the exception to the rule.

It takes at least 24 hours to build and egg. Then there is a period after laying before the next ovulation.
It takes about 14 hours to make an egg shell and there isn't room for more than one egg in the shell gland.

Some time after the previous egg is laid, an ovary drops into the infundibulum where it spends 15 minutes and is fertilized there if a rooster is kept with the hen.
It spends 3 hours in the magnum where inner and outer membranes are added along with some water and mineral salts.
1 hour in the isthmus where the albumen is secreted and layered around the yolk.
21 hours in the uterus or shell gland where more water is added making the thin portion of the albumen. The calcium carbonate is then added forming the shell and pigments are also added here.
Then it spends less than 1 minute in the cloaca where the bloom is added.

There are 2 poultry labs in Washington you can send a bird for necropsy.

Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, Avian Health and Food Safety Laboratory, Puyallup
2607 W Pioneer
Puyallup, WA 98371-4919 Phone 253-445-4537 Fax 253-445-4544

Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory
Bustad Hall, Rm 155-N
Pullman, Washington 99164
Phone: 509-335-9696 Fax 509-335-7424
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I truly appreciate the information! It was extremely helpful and informative. I tried calling WSU puyallup, but no answer today. I'll call again tomorrow to see if I can get ahold of someone.

Thanks again!
Gary & Brit

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