Mysterious Chicken Death

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In the Brooder
7 Years
Nov 25, 2012
So I came out this morning to my chickens and one had died. I couldn't believe it and I was so scared when I saw her laying under the raised coop and not moving. It was so unexpected. I hadn't noticed any weird behavior earlier, we had been getting eggs from her the last few days and I didn't see any parasites on her when I picked up her body this morning. She didn't seem skinny at all either. I was trying to look things up and thinking it might have been Mycoplasma gallisepticum or MG or whatever it is called. Her eye was closed and may have been swollen but it didn't look that unusual. The one thing I noticed this week was that when I let them out to free range her comb was a lighter color, more pinkish than red. I didn't even think anything at all of it and I know I should have. I think her death is at least partially my fault and I feel so so bad. I can't even begin to describe it. I know I could have been giving them more attention. What can I do to figure out why she died and prevent the rest of the flock from getting anything she had? Help very much appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Chickens can die suddenly from many causes such as a heart attack. A pale comb can be caused by molting, anemia from mite infestation, or many diseases. Don't beat yourself up over it. You probably could not have prevented it. Now just handle your chickens often, feeling of them, looking for mites and lice near their vent, examine their crop in morning to make sure it is empty and not sour or impacted, look in the mouth, look at eyes, and check their vents. Note any swelling of the face or sneezing. Look at their poop for diarrhea or roundworms. After owning chickens for few years, we will all lose one now and then. You can do a necropsy on any to find reasons why they die--there are good instructions on how to do it and what to look for online. Here is a link:
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I'm sorry for your loss. A necropsy could really assist you at this point. I will mention a few things that are important to know. Internal parasites should not be overlooked as a possibility, nor should some severe cases of Fowl Cholera. Both are common in birds that range. People often think Cholera always exhibits swollen waddles, and thatisn't always true. A bird seemingly healthy one day can be dead the next. Pasteurella Multicoda is the bacteria that causes this. Where poor sanitation, malnutrition, parasites can sustain the bacteria, it can aslo be spread by rats, wild birds, raccoons, skunks, or a chicken simply pecking at a dead bird carcass. It is more prevalent in warm climates but can strike anywhere causing rapid deaths and greenish-yellow to white diarrhea.

Don't blame yourself. Birds on range can pick up diseases. Sunlight and dry conditions will destroy the bacteria. Not leaving feed out, eliminating standing water on range, keeping field grass cut and scouting the area of range for animal carcasses, raccoon feces are all things that can help prevent this. Some birds have stronger immune systems than others, thus giving you time to treat suspected diseases. LA-200, sulfa drugs, are commonly used to combat outbreaks, and resistant strains of Cholera have been knocked out with Gentamicin injections.

The internal parasites I mentioned earlier are why many of us who keep chickens worm twice a year with effective wormers like Albendazole (Valbazen). This wormer also eliminates cecal worms which transmit Blackhead (Histomoniasis), which is a protozoa not a bacterium or virus. Coccidiosis is also caused by protozoa.
I'm so sorry for your loss!

The only thing that can really lead you to any answers is to have her undergo necropsy. Sometimes this is inconclusive, but sometimes it gives the answers we need to help the rest of our flocks.

If you have a local avian veterinarian, you can take her there for necropsy. I'd advise having her necripsied at any other type of vet... one must be very familiar with avian biology to preform an appropriate avian necropsy! This might be somewhat expensive, though.

Another, and better option, is to contact your state extension office and ask where you can send a chicken for necropsy and disease testing. Each state differs... some offer this for free, while others charge. It's worth it to ask.

Try to get her in as soon as you can, but until you can get her in, it is best to keep her chilled (not frozen!), such as in a refrigerator.

Best wishes to you!

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