New Hampshire Reds mysteriously dying

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by katiesue, Oct 25, 2012.

  1. katiesue

    katiesue Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 24, 2012
    My Dad lives in Tn and had a flock of 14 chickens. It is now down to 10 as of this morning. I was trying to research some info for him and keep getting various info that doesn't really help.

    I think that in order to accurately describe what we are seeing today, a little history is needed of this flock...

    Dad's first flock of hens was 2 years ago for Easter in March of 2010. He got them as pullets just a few days old, and were New Hampshire Reds. He raised them and kept them happy and they started laying at about 4 months old. He got an egg a day from them even through the cold winter months! Just before Easter 2011, he added more pullets to his flock. 2 White Leghorns and 3 Rhode Island Reds. In May, the NH dropped their production a little. The new hens started laying around 5 months old in July of 2011, and out of 14 hens he was getting 11-13 eggs daily until Oct. 2011 when it dropped to 9-11 eggs. It was during that season (in the fall) when the NH hens lost all their back feathers, and had sores all over their backs. Figuring that came from the rooster, Dad got rid of him. Without the rooster, the wounds healed up, but the feathers have taken a year to grow back, yet even still today some of them still have bald spots that haven't completely filled back in yet. By November the eggs dropped to 8 - 10 eggs, but increased back up to 12 a day during the holidays. Christmas day he got 14 eggs out of 14 hens!

    Then in January, it dropped again, to 8 - 10 eggs a day. In Feb, he was getting 3-7 eggs a day, and in March we seemed to re-stablize at around 4-6 eggs a day. This is where we stayed through the summer, until now, where we are at 2-5 eggs a day. The white Leghorns have been most diligent, but in the last 2 weeks have dropped from 2-3 white eggs daily out of 2 hens, to now we are getting only 1 egg daily from them with an occasional 2nd egg. This is unlike them.

    So now the most troublesome problem:

    On Mother's day, 2012, a NH was found dead on the floor of the pen. It is a moveable pen that we move every 2-3 days so they can have the benefits of "free ranging" while enjoying the safety and protection of the pen. On Father's Day, another NH was found dead on the ground. Again, no reason was ever found. Another one was accidentally killed by a sudden closing door during egg collection, so we understood that, but then another NH died this morning. (Oct. 24th) The one that died this morning, at least gave us a warning this time. She was not walking yesterday. We removed her from the coop and put her in a Hospital pen to see what we could do for her. She ate food we put within her reach and she drank water. We could find no markings of injury other than that the flock had pecked at her comb when she was sitting on the floor of their pen before we found her. But the injury wasn't deep or appearing to be life threatening. We thought perhaps she had sprained a leg or something, and just needed some safe rest to recover. This morning, however, she never opened her eyes. She acted awake, shook her head occasionally, but mostly rested with eyes closed. We kept her comfortable, placed her beak in water, which she shook off, and then left her to rest. When we checked on her again, she was dead.

    Out of all the hens Dad has, total of 10 now, he is getting from 2-5 eggs a day. 5 of them are the newest ones, being about a year and a half old. Dad is thinking that these are the ones producing the 3-5 eggs a day, and that none of the NH are producing at all anymore. We have noticed that with each death, the production hasn't decreased more. So the ones that died, were not layers, but they were all NH. A year ago, we noticed a temporary decrease in egg production that picked back up for the holidays, but then decreased even more by Spring. Now we notice another decrease again. We keep trying various things to encourage better egg production, but the best we can do is 5, with a very occasional 6 in one day. We are guessing that the 5 come from only the RIRs and the Leghorns, but even that isn't consistent, as we often get less than 5.

    What we have tried:
    Antibiotics in the water.
    Increase in availability of oyster shells.
    Changed from feeding pellets to feeding laying mash for a few months, and this week changed back to pellets again.
    They also get chicken scratch/ cracked corn / and scraps of fruits and veggies from the kitchen along with breads and popcorn which they LOVE as a special treat. (That seems to encourage larger "Jumbo" eggs...but not always more eggs.)
    Also added some gravel to their feed... a bag of granite that we bought from TSC.

    We are wondering if the NH's have a shorter life span, as mentioned in one article online I found, And if so, does this explain a shorter egg laying time frame and are they dying of old age at 2.5 years old? We are wondering if the Rhode Island Red hens are also reaching the end of their egg production cycle as their production is decreasing in the same way that the NHs did last year at this time. Or if there is something that may be causing all this to happen. What more can we do for Dad's chickens? He is going to separate the NH from the rest to see if we EVER get any eggs from them. Then we'll also see if it helps the others to lay more faithfully somehow.

    I have read some articles about NH being bred mainly for meat production and that you can expect about 120 eggs per year from them. (Is that just for one year and then they're done?) These NHs seemed to slow their laying after just over a year of production, and then completely stop laying right around their 2 year old mark.
    The RIR Dad has now, have been laying for over 1 year, so they also are slowing down after 1 year of production, and we wonder if they will stop laying by next spring as well?

    What should Dad expect? Or is there something seriously wrong that we need to address to save these hens?

    Even if it's just that this is what NH are known for, that helps too. But then what about the RIR and the White Leghorns? Will they all be okay again once we remove the NH from their midst??

    Thanks in advance for any information you have to offer. I appreciate it.

    Katie Sue
  2. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    Has he ever wormed them? Also check for mites/lice.

    Some vets will do a fecal test for worms for a small fee. False negatives are possible.
  3. katiesue

    katiesue Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 24, 2012
    Dad says it's not Mites or Lice. Never thought about worms.
    Can they be wormed at home, or do you need to go to a vet for that?
    What would be the symptoms of worms?

    We got 5 eggs this morning, so were excited as yesterday was only 3.
    Dad feels like this seems to really just be affecting the NH more than anything, and that they haven't laid in a long time.
    As long as he is still getting up to 5 eggs a day from the RIR and the Leghorns, he's happy with their production.
    And so far, it's been ONLY the NH that are dying....

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