Mysterious death no signs of previous illness -newbie-what to do now?


In the Brooder
9 Years
Sep 4, 2010
North Carolina
When I went out to the coop this morning to open gate and let them free roam and feed/water them. I found our Barred Rock on the floor of the coop looking funny. I reached down to pet her and she only moved her head slightly. Very listless looking. We picked her up and she threw up a little and then went into convulsions and then died. It was so unexpected.

Wanting to know if there is anything I need to do to protect the rest of the flock? And any ideas on what caused her unexpected/mysterious death?

1) What type of bird , age and weight. Barred Rock, 6-1/2 months old Started laying a little over a week ago-laid approximately 5 or 6 eggs.
2) What is the behavior, exactly. Dead
3) How long has the bird been exhibiting symptoms? Today! Maybe from yesterday afternoon. She seemed fine yesterday morning. I check for eggs a few times a day. I noticed she was in the nesting box/coop for awhile in the afternoon. I thought she was working on an egg and didn't think anything of it. But she stayed in the coop/nesting boxes most of the afternoon. I was busy in the evening and had my son (11yrs) make sure the coop and run was shut and all birds were in when it got dark. They normally put themselves to bed and we just make sure they are shut in for the night.
4) Are other birds exhibiting the same symptoms? No
5) Is there any bleeding, injury, broken bones or other sign of trauma. None
6) What happened, if anything that you know of, that may have caused the situation. Nothing
7) What has the bird been eating and drinking, if at all. Seemed to be eating and drinking fine (not sure about yesterday when she was in coop for the afternoon but she had access to it in the coop. I feed them Purina Layena but they free roam most of day (bugs, grass etc.) and I have just started to throw them some treats/table scraps in the last few days. I have fed them grapes, bananas as treats. And I have recently started throwing scraps into the compost pile outside that they have helped themselves to. (pear, broccoli, cucumber, zuchinni.) I read a lot on forum about things that are toxic to chickens before I started throwing things in the compost pile (which was previously just yard clippings). They drink water from bottle in coop and water from dog bowls on porch and water from the Turtle shaped kids sand box that never gets the lid put back on (rain water). And the kids like to throw them some wild bird seed as scratch (grain products, millet, black oil sunflower).
8) How does the poop look? Normal? Bloody? Runny? etc. I haven't seen anything unusual.
9) House and bedding. Coop is4X8 box built in back corner of old shed with pine chips.


We have 3/4 of an acre fenced in with a 6 ft. privacy fence that they free roam in most of the day when we are home (which most of the time we are) and when we are not. The grass is more weeds than actual grass. And our riding lawn mower broke this summer and we have only been mowing half of the back yard because we have to push mow it all. So we have let the back portion of the fenced yard grow tall grass/weeds. Could she have gotten into or eaten something in that that could have made her suddenly sick?

I bought 2 leghorn pullets about a month ago. We bathed and kept quarentined for over 2 weeks. We let them free roam during the day with chickens for the last part of 3rd week but kept separate at night. They have integrated well and we have put them in the coop at night with the rest of chickens for the past 4 nights. They seem fine and healthy. Could they have made her sick? Do I need to worry about others getting sick?

Also, they are handled daily by my kids, mostly my oldest (11yrs - he is my chicken whisperer! I find him a lot just sitting on the old tire in their run holding one and watching them. I asked him what he was doing in the run with them, he said "I just like being with them."
He loves the chickens and they are part of his chores.) Could he have gotten her sick? I know that boys are not the best about washing hands etc.

Do I need to clean out their coop? I put fresh litter in it about a month ago (2") and was going to start to do the deep litter method. I stirred it up the other day and it doesn't stink.

What do I need to look for in the rest of the flock? I have 1 EE roo, and 2 EE, 1 Orp, 2 RIR, 1 blk. sexlink, and 2 leghorns left.

Is there a way for me to do an autopsy myself to see if there was any internal issues? I have helped gut a dear after hunting but have never done a chicken before. I am a little nervous about doing it but could do it. I eventually want to cull some of my flock for meat in freezer in the next few years so I need to get use to the idea. But I would have no clue what to do or what to look for. Any suggestions/thoughts on that one?

Any help/advice would be greatly appreciated!!! Thanks
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My best guess is that she had some sort of problem in the egg-laying department - they can die quickly and without warning from those issues. I have had that happen to me.

You can certainly open her up and take a look at her abdomen; i did. I'm not an expert on this, but when i saw that her entire insides were covered in egg yolk, i was pretty sure i had my answer.

As i understand it, those problems are chiefly hormonal, and there isn't much we can really do to prevent it.

I'm sorry for your loss.
Thank you Punkin Peep! I did open her up and it was just as you said....Her insides were filled with egg yolk. I guess it was an egg laying issue.
You're welcome! Even though it's so sad to lose her, i know it's a relief to know you don't have some terrifying disease getting ready to slaughter your flock.

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