Random Death. Not sure why.

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Vermont Poultry, Feb 12, 2017.

  1. Vermont Poultry

    Vermont Poultry Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 22, 2016
    Northern Vermont
    This morning at around 9:30 I went to open the coop and at the front of the door laid a dead Rhode Island Red pullet (7 months old). She had been dead for at least 2 hours, her face was frozen but her body was not. The day before she was just fine, and did not seem to have any issue, even before she went to sleep there was nothing noticeable about her behavior. They do get up at 3:00 am due to a light timer, so it is a fair chance she died early in the morning, but not during the night because she had food in her crop, which also makes me wonder that it probably wasn't some parasite or intense disease or else she wouldn't of been eating normally. Her body position is also odd, she was on her stomach sprawled in a straight line with her head curled in towards her. This makes me think a possible cardiac arrest, her eyes were three quarters closed not sure if that means anything. Was there possibly some genetic anomaly that caused some sort of organ failure, even this young? Note out of the 40 plus birds I taken care of the past year, this is the first matured bird I have had pass away, last death was due to a genetically messed up chick, so I have no experience with this sort of situation.

    Analysis of the scene and body:
    Body was right in front of the door, stiff stretched out on its stomach, head curled in towards its body, feathers on the back of the head were slightly standing up, crop was about 1/3 full, eyes almost closed, mouth frozen shut, vent looked normal and no external injuries at all, could not feel broken bones, no weird poop that I could find that may hint parasite or other internal issues. There was plenty of food and water, fair lighting, quite cold around 25 degrees inside the coop but with no wind chill and access to 16 feet of roost and 5 nesting boxes. The other chickens were calm so no predator (coop is predator proof) and the chickens were not even fazed by the dead bird, this particular chicken was not at the bottom of the pecking order but was at least the bottom 4th.

    Possible causes of death listed from my opinion of most likely to least likely.

    1. Random organ failure due to genetic issues

    2. Suffocation, possibly the pullet may have eaten a piece of straw or rock that became lodged in the airway

    3. Death by cockerel, the GLW cockerel we have is fairly bigger than the pullets, maybe he tried to mate with her which caused a freak accident resulting in death

    4. Hypothermia, maybe she was on the roost all warm and then hopped off, causing her body to go into shock at the sub 30 degree temps

    Any ideas? As I was writing this I did remember she is usually on the lower roost, there are two, 8 foot roosts, but most of the time all 16 chickens squeeze onto the top roost, but sometimes she gets kicked to the lower one, I highly doubt this is why she died but just something I thought of.
  2. Sorry about the death of your hen. I hate this part. It's bad enough and painful enough loosing one but then you find yourself agonizing about why your bird died.

    I have lost two chickens to what I suspect were genetic cardiac sudden deaths. One was a rooster, just a year old and a BIG boy. Sometimes, I've read, they can go into a sort of cardiac failure because they grow too fast for their internal organs to keep up with them, or sometimes they suffer sudden death because of a genetic problem. The rooster was eating well but thin. He had been wormed. For two days I noticed that he was looking like he wasn't feeling well but they were all molting and they were all acting droopy. I opened the coop the third day and found him on his back, legs up, stone dead. Research told me that when you find a chicken on it's back like that it is generally from a sudden death heart attack. Two weeks ago, his daughter suffered the same fate at 7 months of age. She was small for a 7 month old Orpington pullet. The roosters were starting to mate her and I suspect she suffered a crushing injury of some sort. I brought her in the house. She responded to treatment for a few days and then like her father I found her on her back dead. She had seized. Conclusion. Shock from the mating injury and cardiac death probably genetic.

    I would suspect since you found her on her back that it was some sort of cardiac failure but exactly what happened will probably be a mystery without a necropsy.

    Once again, my condolences.
  3. dekel18042

    dekel18042 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 18, 2013
    X2. Over many years of having chickens some (different breeds but in some cases certain breeds seem more prone) have died suddenly from no apparent reason. Hasn't happened often, but has happened, I've seen an apparently healthy chicken jump into the air and come down dead. I've talked to vets with both avian and farm experience and their consensus is often it can be traced to two causes, cardiac arrest or neurological problems where in simplistic terms the bird isn't "wired" properly. In my case, since it happened once and the other few times were over a period of time but with the same breed and line I suspect there could be a heredity component.
  4. Vermont Poultry

    Vermont Poultry Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 22, 2016
    Northern Vermont
    Thanks guys for the responses. She was on her stomach so I don't think it was a heart attack, but may still be.

    I think it may be air sack mites or sinus infection because our whole flock has been affected, but she was the first one to die. Today was the first day I noticed any symptoms in more than 2 of the birds we had. Maybe she suffocated to death from the sudden outburst of respiratory illness.

    Anyway, yes it was shocking, I was not sad because I knew she had a happy life and served her purpose (her body was not wasted, was given to wild animals). And at least she died suddenly then suffer then die. She will be replaced by a group of new poultry come spring, who knows, turkeys, quail, more guineas, I'm looking towards the future. Her death will be a reminder to keep up on biosecurity that has been lacking lately, and overall chicken hygiene.
  5. aceintoledo

    aceintoledo Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 25, 2011
    You just described how I found my 2 1/2 year old hen this morning. No issues leading up to her death.
  6. Vermont Poultry

    Vermont Poultry Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 22, 2016
    Northern Vermont
    Hope you figure out why. I believe you can send off the bird to a lab to get it tested.
  7. azygous

    azygous True BYC Addict

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    If you can, get her body necropsied. It should give you the answers you are seeking.

    Reading this brought back memories of finding my six-month old EE pullet dead in her coop exactly as you found yours. She had been perfectly normal the night before. I thought, as you have, that she died of a sudden heart attack due to genetic causes.

    But then over the next week, I thought about my own actions leading up to her death. I can't say for absolute certainty, but I think she died after ingesting grit that had been tainted with paint thinner. What had happened was I had emptied a small spray bottle that had paint thinner in it. I didn't rinse it out but filled it with some cooking oil, thinking to spray it on a dusty patch of sand in the run as an experiment to see if it would control the dust there. I didn't think there was enough paint thinner residue in the bottle to matter.

    All the chickens were scratching around in that spot over the next couple days, and I didn't think anything more about it until I found the pullet dead in her coop. It took months to get over the guilt and grief, and it's been hard to write this.

    Sudden death can sometimes occur following use of insecticides and any petroleum based products, and it may have killed my pullet.

    Also, I've had sudden death occur after a pullet spent a lot of time digging around in my compost pile after a very wet winter had contributed to conditions that encouraged decomposing apples and squash to develop into botulism toxin. A week later, another pullet took sick suddenly, but I was able to save her with antibiotics.

    Some serious recollection of your own activities leading up to this death may give you some answers. But a necropsy certainly will.
  8. Vermont Poultry

    Vermont Poultry Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 22, 2016
    Northern Vermont
    That's tough. I have slipped up a few times safety wise, for example accidently leaving part of a plastic bag outside, which they pecked to pieces, or when I left chicken wire with sharp ends exposed and at chicken eye level, luckily their have been no injuries or deaths due to my mistakes. Chickens do seem to find ways to hurt themselves, break things, or get trapped. Sorry about what happened, it is easy to overlook things without noticing hazards.

    We believe the death may actually of been due to suffocation, we have had a respiratory illness outbreak in the coop and she may have developed a more sever case very quickly.
    1 person likes this.

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