Need advice -- we've lost 3 chickens in the past 10 days!

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by kkhh, Feb 18, 2015.

  1. kkhh

    kkhh Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 22, 2013
    Hi everyone, I'm hoping to get some feedback. We live in Maine, have a relatively small flock of 12 hens, 1 rooster. During the winter, they stay in an "indoor" coop that's built into the end of the barn. It's insulated, but has 2 wall vents, a big vent on the door, and an access hatch out to a covered, screened-in outdoor area. We leave the access open all winter so they can come and go outside as they please.

    The birds don't seem sick. They're acting as normal, eating, vocal, etc. About 10 days ago, hubby went out for his morning visit and one of our oldest was dead. She was about 5 yrs old. No injuries, just dead. The next day, a chicken was missing. He checked the outdoor area and another older hen was lying under the ramp outdoors, dead. This morning, he found one of the young hens we got last year dead. Yesterday, she was fine.

    They have access to fresh water, food and we keep a heat lamp on for warmth and to keep the water from freezing. The coop is large, the floor is sand covered with a layer of straw that gets replaced frequently.

    It has been extremely cold here, and I'm wondering if that is the cause. We've kept chickens for about 5 years now, and while we've had chickens die for no apparent reason, it's been random and infrequent.

    Any advice would be appreciated!
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2015
  2. BayBay Peepers

    BayBay Peepers Overrun With Chickens

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    Apr 5, 2013
    Wisconsin
    Welcome to BYC!

    Any signs of a predator attack or any chance one could get in? Also I'm thinking you should check for mites or lice. They're notorious for hitting in winter and can cause a nightmare if not treated. Do you know the temperature in your coop? I don't think they're freezing to death because a cold bird will tuck their head under their wing. I feel like they'd freeze in place. I knew a lady that lost her whole flock in one night and each was tucked in on the roost.

    I'm sorry for your losses. [​IMG]
     
  3. kkhh

    kkhh Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 22, 2013
    Thanks so much for your reply baybay. We've learned that it's not any type of sickness, it's a stealthy predator who decided to get bold today. Everyone was fine last night, but hubby discovered a mass murder scene this morning. We had 11 hens remaining, and one beautiful roo. After the massacre, we have 6 hens left. Only one hen had visible damage -- her throat was ripped open. Two were dead inside the coop, the other bodies were outside in the enclosed run, with feathers everywhere. We're 99 percent sure the killer is under the barn, but we're not certain if it's a rat or a weasel. We've caught both in the past, but before they had a chance to do any harm. I'm physically sick about this -- if we'd suspected a predator instead of illness, the birds would have been locked up tight indoors. We thought the outdoor run was secure, but apparently it wasn't secure enough.
     
  4. BayBay Peepers

    BayBay Peepers Overrun With Chickens

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    Apr 5, 2013
    Wisconsin
    I'm so sorry for your losses [​IMG]

    I am glad you know there's something there now though. This will give you a chance to locate any weaknesses in your run and the others will have a better chance. Predators can be so frustrating. I hope you can find the perpetrator quickly and rid yourself of the problem.
     

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