Hen dead after coop door left open overnight, but no signs of attack?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by DavidMed, Aug 3, 2016.

  1. DavidMed

    DavidMed Out Of The Brooder

    14
    0
    22
    Oct 27, 2014
    My backyard set up is a solid wood walled coop, raised off the ground, with a small door to an attached and fully enclosed run. The run has a door that leads to a fenced off area with an open top that I let the chickens use during the day. At night I close the run door but leave the coop door open. The run is pretty tight and no predators have even tried to get in yet (we have cats, possum, and raccoon's).

    This morning I went out to open the run door to the outer fenced area and saw that we had left that door open, so anything that jumped the fence could get into the coop at night. I was relieved to see 3 of our 4 chickens roaming outside and hoped to see the 4th in the nest box. Instead I found her dead on the coop floor, covered in ants.

    My first assumption was a predator got her in the night. But when I removed her I could see no blood or injuries anywhere. She looked totally intact, and the other hens seem totally un harmed as well.

    Is this just a coincidence? Or would a raccoon or possum be able to kill the hen and leave no marks, make no attempt to eat her, plus not harm any other chickens?
     
  2. Sonya9

    Sonya9 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,250
    145
    191
    Feb 7, 2014
    Jones County, Georgia
    Totally intact as in no ruffled messed up feathers? Do you normally close the chicken door? It could be a natural death.

    Have you thought about adding avian netting over the top of the run? The stuff is very strong, and not expensive (a 50 x 50 net is about $60 on amazon). If something other than a snake gets in you should see signs.
     
  3. BantamFan4Life

    BantamFan4Life LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO. Premium Member

    84,499
    3,795
    646
    Jun 15, 2012
    Washington
    My Coop
    If there's absolutely no sign of an attack, it's a coincidence. Sometimes, chickens randomly die for no apparent reason. I wouldn't worry about it unless more of the other chickens meet the same fate. That would mean they could have a disease like Newcastle or AI, but if the others are fine at this point, you needn't worry.
     
  4. DavidMed

    DavidMed Out Of The Brooder

    14
    0
    22
    Oct 27, 2014
    Feathers not mussed up in any way that looked unnatural or normal. No dried saliva etc. We have snakes in CA of course, but highly unlikely I have any coming into in my backyard.

    The attached run is fully enclosed, the other area just ads some space for them to roam but keeps them corralled. I may add netting, but would still need to close them in the main coop/run each night to be sure.
     
  5. ChickenChaser9

    ChickenChaser9 Chillin' With My Peeps

    580
    61
    118
    Feb 3, 2016
    If it were Newcastle the whole flock would be wiped out. I also take umbrage with your using the phrase "randomly die". We aren't talking about a game of Russian roulette here. Have a necropsy done on the bird an you will know for sure. There is no reason not to find out definitively.
     
  6. DavidMed

    DavidMed Out Of The Brooder

    14
    0
    22
    Oct 27, 2014
    I'm still not convinced something didn't get in there, but the lack of any signs of violence are very odd to me. I'm also certain a predator would have attacked them all as they would have all been close together in the coop and essentially trapped.

    I understand whatBantanFan4Life is saying, though I agree, it's never really random, it can appear that way. The hen seemed healthy yesterday as do the others. I'll give the others a closer look when I get home, but will probably pass on a necropsy unless another dies in the same manner. In the mean time, I am also putting a note at the back door to check the coop. I always lock that door before going to bed so that will hopefully keep that from happening again.

    PS, this is probably unrelated but equally strange so I'll add this little detail to see what others think: yesterday or the day before I checked for eggs midday and found two. One was covered in yolk and ants, but not it's own yolk. There were no (as in zero) eggs shell fragments that I could find. For the week prior I'd had one hen who as laying thin eggs, most of which where cracked but not broken. They all have access to oyster shells and layer pellets but for the two weeks prior to this may have run out of shells as we were all out of town and the hens were being watched by friends every other day.
     
  7. cra-zchicknlady

    cra-zchicknlady Out Of The Brooder

    35
    4
    32
    Jul 18, 2015
    In the previous weeks was she losing weight? Acting lethargic? I had a hen drop an egg yolk inside her body cavity, it got infected, and nothing I did helped. She regularly had thin shells no matter how much oyster shell and grit I provided. I don't know if that could lead to death that quickly though.
     
  8. Sonya9

    Sonya9 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,250
    145
    191
    Feb 7, 2014
    Jones County, Georgia
    A necropsy may or may not show the cause of death, and testing for all sorts of random things could be incredibly expensive. If the op loses more birds then yes, testing and a necropsy would be in order.

    Op some states offer free necropsies, make sure to refrigerate the body asap if you want to have one done. Personally if th others appear healthy and this was a "one off" i probably wouldn't bother. Also usually snakes will leave signs by slobbering all over the head/neck when they attempted to swallow their prey.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
  9. DavidMed

    DavidMed Out Of The Brooder

    14
    0
    22
    Oct 27, 2014
    Hen to be buried today with full ceremony (for my two young boys benefit). Will not exhume! ;)

    On the plus side (I guess) this was my loudest and bossiest hen (and I was one hen over the legal limit!). But now I have two black laced wyandottes and only one buff cochin. My 7 year old is worried she'll be lonely.
     
  10. "But now I have two black laced wyandotes and only one buff Cochin"I have never heard of a black laced wyandottes.dont worry,as long as she makes friends with the other two,she will be fine.and if you can,make sure to spend some extra time with her.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by