Mysterious chicken death...help, sleuths, we're sad! :(

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by StPaulieGirls, Aug 10, 2008.

  1. StPaulieGirls

    StPaulieGirls Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 14, 2007
    Oakland, CA
    Hi all,

    One of our two chickens is dead. The death isn't actually a mystery, because we had her euthanized, but the events leading up to her death are really confusing.

    Just got back from a family reunion out of state. While there, we got a call from the chickensitter saying she'd found our Ameracauna, Bea, unresponsive in the nest box of our ark. The hen was missing a few feathers and was bleeding from inside her mouth/eye. From across the country, we couldn't know enough to make a good decision, but the vet said that the bird was suffering and the prognosis wasn't looking good and that she'd have to run $500 worth of tests to see what was going on, only perhaps to have to euthanize the hen anyway. It broke our hearts, but we had her put down.

    Immediately, I had suspected the boy next store (who was watering our gardens while we were away) of fussing with the coop and somehow getting himself in chicken-related trouble. He's done this before, and I thought this time maybe he'd accidentally harmed one of the hens.

    Now, I'm starting to suspect Poppy of killing Bea.

    Here are some elements of the circumstances:

    This hen and one other lived in our back yard. They were best buddies, raised by hand from chicks. Both were healthy and laying well, though slowing down in the heat. They were generally inseparable and friendly to us and each other. They're 18 months old.

    The other hen, Poppy, had made two strange efforts at crowing the day before we left. (She just crowed again this morning, which is why I'm awake.)

    There are feathers all over the yard where the ark was. Bea's in the freezer pending burial under the apple tree; I can't bring myself to look at her, yet, but my nurse friend says she's missing feathers on her neck and her skull is picked, too.

    The birds may have ingested pesticides, as the same boy mentioned above has fed them beetles out of a bag-trap, in spite of the giant sign warning *not* to do so that we put on our garage (and we told his parents, too). It's been okay for weeks and the birds haven't shown signs of illness from the few cups he fed them, but the petsitter found a heap of beetles in the ark, so the boy was disobeying us and his parents in our absence.

    We wonder if the pesticides have caused sex-characteristic changes/aggression if their toxic load has been increasing without our knowing. We fed the hens hand-picked beetles from our garden and Poppy always eats more bugs than Bea did; she's just faster.

    Poppy, today, is nervous (probably the result of being alone). The chickensitter thought Poppy seemed nervous and confused when she found Bea mangled, too.

    That's the end of the clue list.

    We had thought to get another bird or two, maybe even chicks to graft, but if Poppy is the culprit, we may rethink this.

    Does anyone have any ideas? Can you help us solve the mystery? Should we get more hens? Should I put a padlock on my back gate?

    Reading everyone's threads here about the great lengths they've gone to for injured chickens makes me sick to think that we might have euthanized her unnecessarily. If we had been home, I'd have tried to nurse her, but from far away we had to take someone else's assessment of the situation and couldn't spend hundreds of dollars. I'm starting to regret going to the family reunion at all, which is neurotic.

    Sad, sad, sad.

    Thanks, friends,

    Kerri
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2008
  2. JennsPeeps

    JennsPeeps Rhymes with 'henn'

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    Jun 14, 2008
    South Puget Sound
    Kerri,

    I'm so sad to hear about your loss. [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I don't have much insight into the death but I may be able to help a bit with the trapped bugs issue. From what I understand, the bettles die from heat exhaustion, not from any chemical that's in the trap. The trap attracts them using a pheremon (hormone) and once in the trap, the bug dies because it's hot in there. I assume the trap is some sort of plastic bag or tank or some kind? If you have the manufacturer's contact info you can call to confirm this info.

    One possiblity for the death is heat exhaustion on the part of your birds. You mentioned the heat but not how hot or where. Perhaps they got too hot and started to fight?

    Another possibility is some kind of predator got Bea. What's in your area? That would explain why Poppy was so nervous when the petsitter found them.

    You made the best decision with the information you had. You decided to euthanize an animal that was in pain. That's the humane thing to have done. Yes, you may have decided - had you been at home - to wait but you can't second guess your choice. It's done, you did it because you loved Bea and were worried about her pain.

    I hope Poppy recovers well and soon.

    Keep us posted.
     
  3. DDRanch

    DDRanch Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 15, 2008
    California
    I am so sorry for your loss. It must have been very hard on you being so far away. Sounds like you did everything you could.

    I would suspect a predator (rather than poisioning) since you are reporting feathers all over the yard. Feathers missing from the neck could indicate a hawk attack, perhaps an inexperienced bird. Since you don't mention free range, perhaps that is not the culprit. But then from what you report on this neighbor boy...is it possible he either let them out and then couldn't catch Bea? and injured her while trying? That might explain the feathers.

    So sorry.

    Anne
     
  4. antiquebuff

    antiquebuff Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 27, 2008
    Franklin, NC
    If a predator was around Poppy will be very nervous for a few days and being without Bea will add too it.[​IMG] More chicks may help but I can also understand your hesitation. How old is this boy next door?[​IMG]
     
  5. StPaulieGirls

    StPaulieGirls Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 14, 2007
    Oakland, CA
    Thank you very much for the expressions of sympathy. Losing a pet chicken is so strange an experience - somewhere in between losing a dog and accidentally hitting a sparrow with your car, you know?

    Could a rat have ruined her? I just talked with the 11-year-old boy next door (and his dad) and he may no longer be a suspect. His dad would have known if he were lying about something and is the sort of dad who compels his kids to make amends for their screw-ups.

    It may have been a larger predator, as one of the ark doors was closed but not latched, but there's no sign of damage on Poppy. I'll actually be much more relieved if we somehow determine that it was a raccoon or something, as I want Poppy to have a replacement friend (as challenging as that will be to arrange...). Apparently, the dogs have been going crazy every night, so there might be something lurking...

    When Bea was attacked, my dog hadn't been here for days, and she generally protects the coop from other interested parties.

    But what predator? Maybe this post is in the wrong thread, now?
     
  6. SpottedCrow

    SpottedCrow Flock Goddess

    Sorry you lost your bird...
    Just make sure everything is closed up and locked...if you can get a dog crate and stuff Poppy into it and bring her in the house, until you can get her some friends, she'll feel better because she'll be with HER flock ..YOU.
     

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