Post mortem - found healthy hen dead this morning with egg near her

Horse Chick

In the Brooder
7 Years
Oct 20, 2012
Rhode Island
Hey everyone,
Geez I just joined this site and my birds have been healthy. I posted pics yesterday asking to sex my what turns out to be all hens. Well the greatest one in question (pic below) was found dead this morning at 9:30am. I was up late last night and always check them before going to bed and she was fine, roosting at 3:30am.

I found her body laying on its side with an egg near her butt so I'm thinking she had just layed. She was not in the nesting box but in front of it. I lock down the coop at night so they weren't let out until 9:30am when I came to feed. They are used to this, I usually let out by 7am during the week and 9am on the weekend. They have food and water in the coop as well as outside. There were 10 hens in a 4 x 8 coop.

I'm trying to figure out what happened, all appeared and still appear bright and healthy. What did I do with them in the last 24 hours? They were let out to free range yesterday but just a short time (1/2 hour) as my silly dog decided to chase them for about 5 seconds but that was enough for me to shut that down. He's usually quite good with them. They were given a butternut squash to munch on yesterday morning, I notice they hardly touched their grain but they will do that on days they get produce. They also got scratch and some oyster shells (I feed scratch everyday in the morning to keep them busy for a bit but the oyster shells only once per week).

All was fine at 3:30am, she was roosting near the door with 6 other hens and clucked to me when I so rudely disturbed them for my last check. 6 hours later she is dead with no signs of struggle. I'm thinking perhaps she was stressed laying in front of the other gals and if that is the case I feel so guilty for not letting them out sooner. Though she was cold when I found her so it hadn't "just" happened.

Any ideas would be appreciated. Now I'm worried about the rest of the flock.

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Sounds like a real mystery. Did you check her over for signs of teeth marks, punctures, or bruising.? My first thought is a predator in the nest box, check the coop for signs of entry.
I did check her over, no marks whatsoever. I was even concerned that the other hens could have killed her. They are sweet but quite disturbed this morning, I'm thinking because she died and they are just reacting to that. There is no way something can get into the coop. All doors were securely closed and latched and the two windows left open have thick gauge screen stapled on the inside (with 1/4" holes) and they are intact. Coop pics below.

My instinct tells me a snake. Often the other hens will be very upset after something like this. Your coop looks very secure, so was mine until I found a one inch gap in a corner. A snake could suffocate a hen sitting on a nest. I don't think she showed signs of any illness. Any way, look over it with a microscope, I'm afraid it might come back. Snakes can climb quite well too.
I've been getting 3 eggs per day but yesterday only got 2. I am thinking and actually hoping it is related to laying an egg and is an isolated incident.
I did already dispose of her but didn't notice anything unusual. After reading some other threads on dead chickens I'm hoping it was strain from laying and nothing the other hens can get. If it is egg related, is it possible their grain is supplying enough calcium and I shouldn't feed the oyster shell supplement? They are fed Poulin organic layer pellets

Thank you for all the replies, I'm quite distraught over this loss this morning. The girls are turning 6 months this week.
Don't worry this happened to my only hen and I was freaking. But then one day she was all better. I checked threads saying it was just a softshell egg. And don't worry this is rare and only happens to old or young chickens. Go to your local feed shop and ask about calcium related feeds. Oh and by the way the symptoms for this are, draggy wings, sitting down in unusual places, and more. Check threads for more symptoms. Again so sorry about your loss.
I keep a small jar of oyster shell on the side, it lasts a long time. If your eggs haven't been abnormal up until now, then everything is in the feed..but the egg you found was normal right? It still remains a mystery. I doubt being egg bound would kill so quickly...just saying.

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