Mysterious Death- Don't want a repeat


In the Brooder
6 Years
Jun 23, 2013
My flock of four became three today when one of our hens was found dead. She was essentially the leader of the pack, and since one of our girls is losing some feathers and Lily (the one who passed away) enjoyed pecking her, I had separated her from the other three. She was roaming around until dark in our backyard when my dad put her away for the night with the others. While she was squawking a good bit, she's usually pretty noisy and none of the other hens displayed any change in temperament. My dad is proposing a snake bite, but there was absolutely no blood or anything. It was pitiful... Please someone let me know if they can guess at her cause of death! My hens are pets, so this is devastating, and I do not want a repeat! Could she have eaten anything poisonous??? It has been pretty hot, but they all have access to water, whether they are in the coop or not (We often let them free-roam.).
Hi, I am sorry for your loss.

Some more info will help....

How old was she, when was the last time she laid, when and where did you find her deceased? What kind of snakes do you have that you are suspicious of?

1 of my BR was facing off with a garden snake the other day and didn't even know it. It was striking at her and everything. It may be hard to see tiny puncture wounds with all the feathers. And they may not have bled either. Even when my dogs get a hold of gophers and cats (sorry), I often can not see puncture wounds or bleeding as I dispose of them.

Eating something poisonous is always a possibility for free ranging chickens. You should search your area again and remove any known toxic plants and do it regularly as things sprout all the time. However, I have every possible toxic plant known to chickens in my pasture. I just make sure there are none if they are locked inside a run where they might be more prone to picking at said toxins and have removed what I find that I can. But I had to decide either to never have free range chickens or to do my best. Doing my best, I haven't had issues YET.

You may be able to contact your state ag dept, they can do a necropsy usually pretty cheap.

Why is your other bird losing feathers? There may be mites, worms, or some other parasite that is causing it and could lead to death ultimately.

Also, sometimes chickens randomly die. Could be genetic, heart attack, failed liver or kidneys. Chickens suffer many of the same conditions humans do.

I wish I could be more help.

Good luck!
She was three years old and layed the day before. I found her in their coop... Her neck was really limp, like maybe it broke somehow? Their perch is right above where we found her. Her body was not yet stiff or anything. We do have copperheads, but mostly just lizard snakes and not poisonous water snakes.

Thank you so much! And I honestly do not know why the Rhode Island is losing feathers... She has always been sickly looking, and she is also the most skittish in the flock. I always thought it was because she was so stressed out all the time? The one who passed away used to always peck at Rosey, and I thought it was just the strongest picking on the weakest. The others look beautiful though.
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Another hen passed away today... she has always been healthy too, so it came as a surprise. She was four years old
Sorry to hear it.

Did you refrigerate her and think about getting a necropsy? It's the only way to know for sure if there is something going on that you need to change. This link might help...

4 years old is a good life span for certain breeds. Could be just nature taking it's course.

Were you ever able to check for mites? And have you ever wormed? Not all wormers treat all worms. Getting a fecal float to see if you need to treat for worm is about $15 at my vet and they don't have to be an avian vet to do it.

Do you want to discuss symptoms or just need some support?

Hang in there!

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