One hen dead, another on the way? - please help!


9 Years
Mar 6, 2010
Where I live.
Let me begin by saying we are new to chickens. We bought Australorp chicks last August; until Sat. we had 16 hens and 2 roosters. They started laying in January, and we typically would get 13-16 eggs per day. When it was really cold we had a red heat lamp on them.

This past Sat. we had a hen die inexplicably. My husband took care of the chickens because we were gone; he noticed a hen in a nest box in the morning. In the afternoon, what he thinks was the same chicken was still in the nest box, dead. He saw no signs of trauma, but did not know what to look for as far as disease is concerned. He disposed of the body before we had a chance to look at it.

Now we have a hen who is spending way too much time in the nest box, but no eggs. So we were thinking she was egg bound. This morning, she was making soft noises as if she was in distress. When we picked her up, she was extremely light. Other than looking terrible from the roosters picking her neck feathers out, she looks healthy. Not crop bound, bright eyes, normal looking comb. Frankly, I can' tell if her vent is normal or not: no feces, no blood, somewhat pinkish. We gave her a warm bath for 30 minutes in which I massaged her abdomen quite a while. I could not feel a hard mass like a stuck egg. (We are keeping her in a kennel in the house for now.) About an hour and a half after her bath, she had a huge bowel movement; it looked more like diahrhea from a small dog than chicken feces. The color had a slight greenish yellow cast to it. She had 2 more similar but smaller bowel movements. We have given her water, some grain, and some scrambled eggs just recently, and she is eating. Her feces this afternoon looked more normal, and she seems to have perked up. But no egg.

In general, our egg production has fallen off the last few days: 10 to 12 per day. Today it was 10.

With the dead hen and now this, I'm concerned that we have a disease or something. We are using the deep litter method and were going to be cleaning out the coop soon. It has not been cleaned since we put them in it in late Oct.

Questions: Assuming she continues to improve, what should we look for before returning her to the flock? Should she lay first? In general, do sick or stressed birds reduce laying? Flock looks healthy, but there must be something going on.

Thanks for any help you can give us.


All things share the same breath- Chief Seattle
11 Years
Sep 7, 2008
The Emerald City
My Coop
My Coop
Sometimes chickens do die for no apparent reason.

The vent description sounds pretty normal to me. Also chicken poop varies greatly. I'll attach a link to the infamous poop page:

I think you are doing the right things. You might want to add some live culture yogurt to help her guts. A good coop cleaning and sanitizing is a good idea also.

I wouldn't return her to the flock until you are fairly sure she is not sick. And yes any stresser can reduce laying. Is it possible she is flirting with broodiness?

Good luck



11 Years
Aug 22, 2008
Powhatan, VA 23139
That's what I was thinking. Broodies can make strange "stay away" noises LOL. And their poop is yucky!

I've heard of lithargy being caused by mold or algae spores, so it could have kicked up with all the soggy weather we've had around the country. I would start by freshening/cleaning out their bedding and replacing it with fresh, just incase, you can never be too careful. If they've been inside, it might just need some fresh air too. If there's an amonia smell, that can give them respiratory infections too.
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