Hens don't return to coop at night after hen dies

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Douza, Sep 5, 2016.

  1. Douza

    Douza Chillin' With My Peeps

    One of my hens died a couple of days ago. I found her dead just inside the roost door in the morning. She was apparently sick and had been on top of the coop the night before and a friend who was closing up the coop for the night found her, put a blanket on her (because the hen wouldn't let her pick her up) and put her in the roost. I think she was still in the same spot when I found her dead the next morning.

    She was a young pullet and had been returned to me with three 4 year old Americaunas in June from a farmer who had kept them over the winter ( I live in Wisconsin). One of my other chickens had died and he gave me this one to replace it. It is a long story, I had 2 roosters that I had given him and the deal was that he was going to give me 4 pullets from mating the 3 Americaunas with 2 of the same breed roosters, instead he returned the "original hens". I had two little nieces coming for the 4th of July and they always looked forward to playing with the chickens so I didn't have time to deal with the farmer and the dells!

    So you can imagine that the 3 did not like the new one in the pack and one in particular was constantly bullying her. When I saw that she was dead I thought that they had pecked her to death. In spite of being so mean to her, cornering her in the coop, chasing her around, pushing her out of the nest box etc, she never appeared to have any missing feathers. She had been laying and was had sat on eggs for several weeks.

    She did not have any sign of a struggle, missing feathers, blood, or other external injury. I have not had any predators in the yard during the 4 years that I have had the hens.

    I had never had an animal die before and I was very sad. I didn't know what to do with the body until I contacted a neighbor who had chickens and she told me to bury her. Horrible. I cannot imagine burying my dog.

    When I went out to close the coop that night the other hens were not in the roost at the normal time. I went back several hours later and still no hens. I panicked and thought that there must be a coyote or some other predator that was killing the birds. I searched the yard, which is all fenced in with chicken wire under the fence to prevent them from getting out from under and other critters from getting in. They were no where to be found and no dead hens or feather either.

    In the morning they were there pecking in the grass. this has now happened for two more nights.

    They do go into the coop to get food and water but I don't know if they go in the roost or laying boxes. I found one egg in the yard and other than that no eggs.

    Has anyone else experienced this type of behavior after a hen has died in the coop/roost?
     
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Spring Dreaming Premium Member

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    How big is your coop? I don't believe they are reacting to the death, sometimes chickens just die. You could also have a rodent problem. How closed up and cramped is your coop? Chickens needs lots of ventilation and fresh air. There's a reason they suddenly don't want to use the coop and has nothing to do with the dead one so a good overall inspection is in order. When one of mine dies they don't even acknowledge it's there, half the time, and the other half they will peck at it.

    Another thought is a predator came sniffing around, frightened the one and it broke it's neck by flying into a wall which happens, so check for sign of critters around your coop. That would make the rest not want to return to it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2016
  3. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Shift in roost location can be promoted by multiple factors. For some reason coop is getting dark to fast owing too change of sun a dusk can cause it. Ensuring more light is in coop at time they go to roost helps with that. Coop to hot although that not likely as we head into late summer / early fall. If too hot, then increase ventilation. The event that causes my birds to shift roosting sites more than any other is disturbance caused by a predator. No need for birds to be lost for that to occur. After correcting problem, getting birds to move back in may require penning them in coop for a few days before releasing them.
     
  4. Douza

    Douza Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thanks for your thoughts. Central Wisconsin. Sounds like you understand the temperature and light issues here. I'm in Madison. The coop, run etc are more than adequate in size and have not been a problem for the four years that I have had the chickens. I thoroughly cleaned the coop, roost, etc about a month ago and put in new bedding etc. The only thing that I did different is I used grass clippings as part of the base in the run. I've never done that before but I read that it might be a good thing to do. Maybe that changed something or attracted some rodent.

    I will do a thorough cleaning and see if it changes their behavior. I leave the door open to the house all day so that they can run in and out. The coop has a stairs up to it and a high rod in the peak for roosting. They have always gone up on their own as the sun goes down.

    Their is plenty of ventilation and cross breeze. The weather has been cool at night and certainly not the hot weather that we have had earlier in July.

    I am focused on the predator/rodent issue.

    I had a black walnut tree come down near the coop in mid July. the large logs have been removed but I have a significant pile of logs waiting to be split for fire wood and lots of scraps from the cutting and sawdust. I was reading about a fungus and the fact that black walnut is not good for most creatures. This may all be true and may have had something to do with the death of the hen. What I am thinking is that the pile might have become home to a colony of rodents. GREAT!! who may have taken refuge in the comforts of the coop.

    I guess I know what I'm doing on this beautiful fall day.
     
  5. Douza

    Douza Chillin' With My Peeps

    I am happy that it is watermelon season so that I can at least attempt to coax them back into the coop in order to lock them up for a few days once I have made sure that their are not any predators inside. They are clearly not going to go in on their own at this point.
     
  6. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Spring Dreaming Premium Member

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    This is prime rodent time, they begin to try to find a cozy spot to spend the winter near food and chicken coops are a great place to live. Wisconsin rats are wicked smart and the mice are hardy and industrious, so be on the lookout. A mouse or rat scurrying around at night can certainly frighten them and occasionally they can get bit. This winter is looking to be cold again I think, by the signs, as the rats and mice have been coming into my shed for about a month already, a bit earlier than most years.
     
  7. Douza

    Douza Chillin' With My Peeps

    How do I get rid of rats and mice in a coop
     
  8. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Think about resources they need that you can impact. First thing is feed and time to get at it. Rodents of greatest concern do most of their foraging after dark. Make so they have less accessible food after dark. Make certain your storage is rodent resistant. Limit the amount of feed on the ground after dark which can mean feeding the birds less and making so feed in feeders is hard to get at. You can use traps and poisons although latter I am not an advocate of using. Some traps can be simple like water in a bucket or Tin Cats. Snap traps can keep you busy and need to be placed so chickens do not get into them.
     
  9. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Nesting habitat is harder to control. It is easy for me to find rodent nests, some active, but doing math most are under ground where they are difficult to manage against. You can at least remove piles of feed sacks and access to spaces between and under boards.


    Predators that do best job of controlling rodents when working in concert are generally not popular around chickens. The predators are foxes, coyotes, hawks, kestrels and owls. Snakes I now conclude are not effective by themselves. Cats, when not overly fed will put more effort into eating mice.


    You will not have zero rodents when you have chickens as a general rule.
     
  10. Douza

    Douza Chillin' With My Peeps

    It's so interesting that after 4 1/2 years I would just now have these problems my coupe is like Fort Knox. I dug a 14 inch trench around the perimeter put screen fencing in it filled it with dirt and then rocks to meet another buried screen/hardware cloth.

    I took one pass at pulling raking sweeping everything out of every corner of the coop and while doing so with a facemask was covered in little green mites or something. I ran into the basement and quickly tore off my clothes and showered. The other thing I noticed you had not noticed in the past was spiderwebs. I am thinking about Spraying the inside of the coop and soil with something maybe Dawn or vinegar and leaving everything open for a couple of days.

    Any thoughts on that. I realize that this may not sell the rodent problem but at least I have satisfied myself that it's clean and I will go over the entire coop with a fine tooth comb to make sure that there isn't any break in the security. I obviously don't want to use any rodent poison around the coop I have a yellow lab and in spite of the fact that I'm not happy with the hands as they were mean to the young one I don't want anyone to be poisoned.

    I find it hard to believe that there's a large predator given the size and security of my fence but never say never
     

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