found dead hen in laying box


8 Years
Mar 5, 2011
West(by god) Virginia
I went to the coop to find one of my hens dead in her laying box this morning. I got these 3 hens from a neighbor that had to move to the city-she let them freerun and put them up at night- I have had them about 3 weeks-letting them free run occasionally. She had been getting up in the box and would cluck away while there -matter of fact my husband and I watched her thinking she was laying an egg the other day-not! anyway,she has been eating fine and running around like nothing is wrong-the 3 hens are very healthy and beautiful feathers -no molting. My friend said she was only getting 1 egg a day when she gave me the 3. All I have gotten is one egg since I got them which didn't bother me given the time of year. This particular hens vent was open about an inch and a half with pink fleshy looking stuff trying to come out when I found her. Since she was already gone I cut her open-no eggs or any sign of them -really didn't see anything that alarmed me--but, I haven't had chickens in years nor butchered any in years so maybe some of her organs could have been compromised and I wouldn't recognize it. Was wondering if any ideas. She was around 3 years old.
I am so sorry. I do not have an answer to help you but I am really sorry.
from GA
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Welcome to the forum!
Glad you are here, just not under these circumstances.

Since you did the surgery and found no eggs, that blows my theories. No internal laying or prolapse. Since the material was pink and not bloody, it sounds like nothing was eating on her. A possum will kill a hen and eat in that area. Others will too, including other chickens, but a possum would be my first thought.

Most other things I can think of would be a wasting type death, not go straight from healthy to dead. And none would involve the vent like that. Possibly some cancer or a growth she thought was an egg and the strain caused a heart attack? I'm grasping at straws. I just don't know.
First, welcome to BYC! Please continue to hang around. You will get a lot of helpful information and entertainment here.

I know the hens wind down after two years, but they can live to be...I think I have read up to 21 years. so I do not think it was old age that got her. The vent is peculiar. You did not see any eggs in the infundibulum? and there were no eggs in the peritoneal cavity? Did you check for an impact in the large intestine?
This is mysterious... however if you had not mentioned the vent, I would have made the suggestion that it was a heart attack. If I were not feeling well, i would go to a small safe place like a nest box to wait it out.
I hope one of the more helpful members logs on and is able to help you out.
I hope the rest remain healthy for you.

... If you get a broody in the other two, you can get some eggs from someone and jump start the flock again.
Wishing you well.
there was chicken poo in the box with her..... cleaned the box out when I took her out-no possum or coon -they can't get in. But since I went straight to her I did turn around with a sense of dread--hoping somehow a coon hadn't dug under and came in-Nothing--she just had her head turned over her body laying on her side. Looked like she was sleeping. The room we made in to a temporary chicken house in the barn used to be a horse stall with dirt floor-I have raked and raked cleaning it out good-the horses have been gone for 3 years. I really think that since she wasn't laying when I got her it must be a problem she came with and like I said I am not familiar with the organs enough to know if one was to big or something was amiss. I have no idea- I grew up on a farm and not unfamiliar with livestock death -it comes with the territory--but I still hated it. We may never know. Now I wonder about the other one that isn't laying-I will watch them.
I also have 15 biddies coming the first week of April from a hatchery that I will keep in for awhile before putting them in the coop. Having them all treated for Mareks before they ship. Hopefully the rest will be fine.
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Sounds like she may have had a prolapsed vent. Basically her vent turning inside out. Was the vent dirty? I lost a very young one like that last year, and since she couldn't close her vent it was dripping with poo.
the vent didn't seem really dirty-it is kinda hard to explain-like two or three layers of tissue criss crossing each other trying to come out. When I squeezed that area this whole bulbous thing tried to come out-I know this sounds gross but I had rubber gloves on and stuck my finger down her vent -my finger had a hard time trying to find the right path-like trying to put on a pair of gloves that had the fingers messed up.
Anyway ,I found the path and really put my finger in there deep and felt around and felt nothing . So I cut her open----really liquidy too in there whe I cut her open- I don't remember it being like that when I used to butcher--but maybe it was part of the body decomposition.
Well, the other hen that I think was not laying either is acting lethargic--keeps her head kinda pulled into her body --unlike the other hen with hers up and looking around.She is also not really eating alot or excited when I come into the pen. She also has poo all over her butt and the feathers there aren't fluffy anymore. I picked her up and felt around -didn't really feel anything, I am gonna have my husband hold her while I do a better examination of her to see if maybe she is egg bound-but if she hasn't been laying for over a month now I can't think it is that. These were chicks the original owner got at tractor supply over two years ago-I don't know if that makes a difference. I have a dozen BO pullets coming in April and I don't want them to catch anything these hens may have-I am having them treat the pullets for mareks and I will feed treated feed to them. Should I be feeding these hens treated feed?.The original owner never had any problems till before christmas she said they molted and then two quit laying. I am kinda new to this so I sure I am asking questions that have answers already here on the forum-Please bear with me.
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Where in the world are you? Day length could have some affect even now on laying, but even in an overcast snowy place, they should start gearing up again. Feel her keel bone. That would be her sternum. if it is very sharp and she feels thin, after her break from laying eggs, then something is definitely out of sorts. Mine have started laying again after a 'barenaked chicken molt' this year. but once they put on the new feathers they also put on some nice weight.

Our girls are about the same age. I have factory BOs. I have heard that they have a tendency to come with genetic predisposition to different defects and illnesses. Mine -with the exception of a couple-are still in great shape.

Could there be something environmental around there? a poisonous weed, rat poison, was the coop in the old pesticide shed? Is the feed or hay moldy?
I am grasping at straws really. I just don't know what it could be. Could you play detective for a day and do some scouting? You are not feeding them anything like uncooked potato peels are you? There is a treats chart that has the things that chickens can't eat. I will send you the link if you want it.
I have not had a lot of problems that I have had to educate myself on yet. sorry that I can not be of more help.
Sometimes the egg misses the infidibulum-the part where the egg white and shell get put on- and falls into the peritoneal cavity- the cavity that holds all of the internal organs.
If the eggs were being produced, but for whatever reason could not get caught by the 'egg tube' then they build up. her body works at trying to remove this, but there is a new one each day. There really is little hope of helping it.
The hens start to walk funny. I have read it described as a 'penguin' walk. it is possible, especially if these hens came from the same mother, that they could have internal defects.

I hope she pulls through. One lone hen would be lonely.

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