Overheated Hen Died Yesterday - Remember to keep them cool

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by MadHatcher, Jun 23, 2011.

  1. MadHatcher

    MadHatcher Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 9, 2010
    Santiago, our alpha hen, died yesterday of what we think was overheating in our severely hot weather. All the other chickens are doing well and have precautions in place to prevent this from reoccurring - but she will be missed.

    I came home from work yesterday and found her panting in the deep shade nestled against a tree in the cool dirt. I picked her up and felt her muscles spasm a little but she didn't protest or move otherwise at all. I took her inside and sat her down. She couldn't stand or hold herself upright.

    I put her in a bath of cool water in the sink. She drank some of the water. I moved her over to an armchair in a pile of towels with a box fan blowing on her. I misted her with a spray bottle to try to cool her down and fed her some poly-vi-sol in a needless syringe.

    She laid there almost totally unresponsive. I watched her for a little while until she seemed cooled down. I removed the box fan and wrapped her moist body loosely in a towel so she wouldn't be too cold.

    She laid there for awhile longer. I inspected her body all over for bites, wounds, bumps, bruises... and saw nothing. I placed her back on the towels and propped her head up with a little hand towel so it wouldn't droop down.

    I sat there and watched her spasm a few times until she died - water poured out of her beak and nose... very sad.

    I post this so that others might learn from my experience.

    I thought they would be okay in the heat... They have access to plenty of water, free range of my 1/3 acre yard that has trees, bushes, shrubs, shade...

    Well that wasn't the case. Up until yesterday afternoon she was fine. Yesterday morning and even around 1pm she was frisky, happy, alert... She even laid an egg that afternoon... but by 4:30pm when I returned home... she had become unresponsive. I didn't realize heat could kill that quickly.

    We're armed with a ice cubed chicken wading pool and mister today... so hopefully this doesn't happen again...

    Santiago ♥ September 13th, 2010 - June 22nd, 2011 ♥
    She laid a pretty blue egg almost every day of her life, was grumpy but happy, and enjoyed dust bathing.
    She was a good hen and loved by all who knew her.


    Santiago (aka Crooky-toe) is one grumpy alpha hen. She lets me know that camera isn't her favorite toy by putting this face on. ♥
  2. ninabeast

    ninabeast Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 10, 2011
    Upstate New York
    I am so sorry for your loss; that must have been agonising to go through.

    My head hen Tallulah (only 10 weeks) is a heavy, feather-footed girl, and she seems to duffer more in the heat than others do. May I ask: what was your temp on the day it happened? I've been wondering lately how hot is too hot.

    Again, I am so sorry. I can't imagine how you must feel.
  3. MadHatcher

    MadHatcher Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 9, 2010
    The peak temperature and humidity yesterday was 99 degrees.

    When I saw her at 1pm it was about 94 degrees... by 5 it was 99 degrees with 33% humidity...

    Poor girl just couldn't take it... She was our largest and fluffiest hen... I think it was just too much for her.
  4. ninabeast

    ninabeast Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 10, 2011
    Upstate New York
    There are times when I regret beginning this project (these are our first flock), and this is one of them. So much worrying about predators, and disease, and pests, and now heat...somebody please tell me it's going to be worth it.

    Those temps are not much higher than what we've had here; the coop was up to 91 degrees a couple of times (the run isn't finished yet). I had a fan on with big blocks of ice in front of it, and gave them ice water and frozen chopped spinach, but we haven't had long stretches of hot weather yet, where it doesn't cool off at night. And here I was worried about the winters...

    I really feel for you. That must have been awful.
  5. jjthink

    jjthink Overrun With Chickens

    Jan 17, 2007
    New Jersey
    So sad...so sorry that she didn't make it [​IMG]

    Heat is truly their enemy and I am obsessed by it. Fans, fans, fans (and as of last summer also AC because of relentless steamy weather in NJ), icy water, cold fruit, lots of shade etc etc etc.....

    Our poor dear birds - I've read many articles explaining that since they can't sweat, at 90 degrees and higher they are in trouble and need our help..... Humid weather is far worse than dry heat..... Whoever said chicken keeping is easy was on drugs.

    Last edited: Jun 23, 2011
  6. MadHatcher

    MadHatcher Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 9, 2010
    I suppose I was being a little native about the whole chicken keeping thing as well when I started this... These are my first chickens as well and there are just so many things to worry about when keeping them I never initially considered.

    I always expected that water, shade, cool dirt baths and wind would be enough to keep them cooled off... but apparently not.

    It sounds like you're doing a really great job of keeping them cooled off... I really didn't do anything other than give them water and set them loose in my yard... and my poor girl paid the price.

    I suppose it is just part of the learning experience... yesterday was the hottest it has been but it has been in the mid 90s all week.

    I asked my husband last night (at my lowest, saddest point) if we could find a new home for them because I didn't think I was strong enough to watch each one die off...

    He told me (bless him) that the chickens live happy lives with us and that they will die one way or another... at least we will know that since they live with us that they are living happy, pampered lives full of their favorite treats.

    That made me feel much better...

    I just always feel so guilty when something goes wrong... I was the one that really wanted them... I was the one that turned them every day as eggs and fretted over the temperature and humidity and I was the one who sat up for almost 36 hours straight to ensure they were all hatched out and drying in the brooder.

    I love them and that I guess is the point. They give me eggs and I receive happiness from watching them. They even have given me a grand-chicken Max who is 6 weeks old now and I've got another grand-chicken on the way... How could I not keep them and love them and feed them?

    I was silly to think that their deaths don't justify the experience of their lives. I'm glad my husband reminded me of that.

    However in my defense... we had a molar pregnancy last month when I was at 9 weeks - SO I've been really upset and emotional anyway.... that definitely played a part in my feelings yesterday and today.
  7. hisdaughter

    hisdaughter Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 30, 2011
    So sorry for your loss
  8. farmerinKC

    farmerinKC Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 5, 2011
    Kansas City, Missouri
    I'm very sorry that you lost Santiago-you loved her, took good care of her and she had a good life. I am just starting with chickens and I had no idea I would worry about them so much. We love them and we do the best we can for them-that all we can do.
  9. Rockin' Reds

    Rockin' Reds Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 3, 2010
    Penrose, Colorado
    [​IMG] So sorry for your loss. And you're hubby is absolutely right about them having a happy life with you. How sweet he is. [​IMG]

    It's going to be in the mid to upper 90s here in Colorado again through the weekend, although we don't have much humidity. Still way too hot for my liking as well as my girls. Along with things Ninabeast and JJthink mentioned, I freeze water in 2 liter soda bottles and put them in the water containers to keep the water cool. I also freeze water in old milk jugs and just set them around the run if they want to lean next to them. When they are out free ranging I turn on the well out in the pasture and soak an area under a tree for them to keep their feet wet. You can also wet down their run too so they have nice cool dirt to dig and lay in. There has been mention on the boards of misters too, which I think I may check into. I also keep a fan running in the barn constantly.

    Anyway, just some ideas for you. Again, I'm sorry for the loss of your girl, it's really hard. I'm also so very sorry for your pregnancy loss...thoughts and prayers to you. [​IMG]
  10. MadHatcher

    MadHatcher Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 9, 2010
    Thank you for all your sweet responses. It is really nice to have a community who understands how hard it is to lose a member of the flock.

    My co-workers are shall we say - less than sympathetic. I get teased or confused looks at best when I talk about the chickens. So I know better to tell them how the death of one of them hurts me. lol

    I'm just glad I have a doctor appointment scheduled later today anyway and get to leave early.

    I appreciate all your helpful comments about keeping the ladies cool and happy. I'm really going to make sure this doesn't happen again.

    I especially like the ideas about frozen spinach and wetting an outside area for them to play in - I'm going to put those into affect this afternoon or tomorrow for sure.

    Thank you again everyone - really.

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