Loosing chickens


In the Brooder
7 Years
Jul 25, 2012
Atlanta Georgia USA
I started with 10 hens. Two Rhode Island Reds, four Plymouth Rocks and four Buff Orphingtons.
I am down to 8 hens. One Rock died mysteriously....just fine one day, dead the next. Lost a Rhode
Island Red just a couple of days ago. Flock was all free ranging, she was with flock in the afternoon,
come evening when I locked them in their coop for the night, she is gone. Just disappeared, no
evidence left behind. Feathers or nothing.....either a hawk or some other sort of predator I would
So, I have come to the conclusion, in order to keep the rest of the flock in tact, I need to keep them penned in their coop since I do not have an enclosed run for the to be outside in. Will Orphingtons,
Rocks and Reds do well being cooped up? I really don't have a choice if I want to keep the
rest of them alive. Really can't afford to build an enclosed run for them right now.
Any suggestions? Have noticed since I have penned them that their laying has dwindled. Out
of 8 hens I am getting about 3 eggs a day, doesn't seem right? Does this have to do with their
being caged? All hens are under 1 to 1.5 years of age.
How big is your coop and how many nesting boxes do you have? Sometimes constant confinement (especially if they used to free range) can lead to stress, which can decrease laying. Did you notice any symptoms in your Rock before she suddenly died? If so, it could have been Newcastle Disease (birds suddenly die), in which case confinement will pose a huge risk to your other birds.

When we got our mini-flock, we found a person who was selling an otherwise perfect coop for just 40 bucks, and all we had to do was reinforce it and make it just slightly better. But generally speaking, that was a cheap find. Similarly, you might want to check craigslist for people who are either selling chicken-runs or run material for free or very cheap because they need it gone. Do you have several trees in your yard in close proximity that can serve as temporary posts for hardware cloth or chicken wire?-- you should also drape it on the top, providing a roof to keep them safe from hawks. This way they can have a controlled free-range experience and you can have time to save or build a more permanent run. Salvage yards can also provide material you can use to create this, like posts.

If you don't think the coop is stressing them out, maybe check for mites like lice-- that could reduce their laying. In the mean time, maybe boost their immune systems with organic Apple Cider Vinegar in their waterer.
I do indeed use apple cider vinegar in their water regularly.
I use the indigenous dirt in their coop and in their food on a regular basis.
I clean the coop out completely and wash it down with disinfectant and bleach
to clean germs every 6 months.
I check them for mites and lice, don't see any.
The coop is part of a garden shed that has been sectioned off and probably
8 feet by 10 feet in size. Should be quite adequate for 8 hens.
Don't know why the Plymouth Rock just suddenly up and died....that has been
about 6 months ago. The Rhode Island Red just disappeared last week, must
have been a predator, find no remains anywhere.
Just was wondering if some breeds of chickens do better confined than others?
The laying less, don't know. Could be that it is because they are cooped up....
usually I get anywhere from 5-6 eggs a day. They love to be out and free ranging
for sure!!! There is a window in their coop that goes all the way down to the floor.
I see them standing there congregated around the window looking out as to
say "when you going to come let us out?" They are friends not just laying hens,
hate to see any more loose their lives.......
As far as building a run with salvaged materials, that is a thought. I don't have any
close trees where the coop is standing unfortunately. I am an older senior citizen
widow and am not really able to build a run for them......would have to hire someone
to do that and that is not an option right now. Thanks for the thoughts.....very
Could be they are molting or laying is reduced due to decreasing daylight this time of year.

The stress from being confined may ease as they get used to it...and it sounds like they'll just have to get used to it.
Maybe increase their animal protein and other food variety to augment the fact that they can no longer free range....both nutritionally and activity wise. Throw some snacks in their bedding so they have to scratch for it...give them something to do and eat.

Good Luck!
8 by 10 sounds big enough... you could hang greens and other treats on the walls so they can pull them down and snack on them-- my girls love that! I agree with 'aart', you could probably create some sort of a scratch-environment so they can feel like they're still foraging a bit. I'm so sorry about your 2 hens, I would be devastated. I read this and may serve as a clue, not sure:
Thanks for your replies. Will try to give girls some treats....know they love
the meal worms. They like bread and cracker crumbs too.....hanging
greens would be good for them to pick at. Hate to keep them up all
the time but as I said, chicken hawks are in the area and would hate
to loose any more. Neighbor next door has chickens and he is always
loosing his chickens to hawks. Have seen a fox one time also out by
their coop. They free range around the house where it is quite wooded
so could be just about anything that is getting them.

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