Sudden chicken deaths

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Chickpea111, Mar 1, 2015.

  1. Chickpea111

    Chickpea111 Hatching

    Mar 1, 2015
    So we had two isabrown hens that we raised from week old chicks. They were about 8 months old. Two weeks ago one of them passed away. No signs of scuffle and she was happy, eating and laying that morning. A quick Google search tells me it's not all that uncommon for chickens to die for seemingly no reason. We got two new friends for our other chicken in the meantime, about the same age as her and they were all getting along well. However, today my other original chicken has also died for no obvious reason. At what point do I say it's just a coincidence and at what point do I get an expert in? I don't want to risk the lives of our two new chickens if it is something environmental. Also who would you call to assess your house to see what would be causing it? Thanks in advance.

    RIP Chick and Pea
    You will be missed.
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Crowing

    Apr 8, 2013
    Greetings and [​IMG]

    Sorry for your loss.

    To be frank, if you don't think you can stomach premature deaths as a rule not the exception, don't get Isabrowns. 'Old age' is something that does not really occur to them. Premature decrepitude and disease does though, if an accident, a deliberate kill by humans, or a predator doesn't get them first. I have heard of the odd few living to 5 or so years but that's very rare.

    No matter how much TLC you give them, they burn out young to supply that egg a day the Isa is supposed to reliably provide, and they do suffer for it and will ultimately pay with their lives, one way or another. They are generally dead before entering their true adult prime, two years old and over. The provision of an egg a day isn't really what does it; I've had some chooks of other breeds give an egg (or two) a day for years while remaining in good health; Isabrowns unfortunately are suffering the long term fallout of a stuff-up of breeding choices somewhere in their breed history. For some reason they do not maintain or ever actually attain true health so that egg a day on top of that is really asking too much.

    The best case scenario for most of them is actually to be killed at their use-by date while still in reasonable health because they have an extremely strong tendency to irretrievably go downhill from there and it doesn't matter what you do to try to stop it. Many people have sworn off them for these reasons. I'm one of them.

    One of my Isabrowns died suddenly on the nest with a fresh laid egg under her; this was probably due to a rupture of something under the strain of laying, since her comb and wattles were the tell-tale dark purplish blue of cardiovascular failure of one sort or another, the cause is kind of irrelevant once it's happened. Also no signs of a struggle with her. Commercial diets contribute to the high rates of cardiovascular disease in chooks by only providing synthetic oils or inorganic sources of vitamin E and the other nutrients necessary for healthy cardiovascular systems, and like pretty much all Isabrowns, that's what she'd been raised on before I bought her and some others as point of lay pullets (though I'm sure some were older than that by a lot).

    Like others I know both in Australia and other countries, my oldest Isabrowns (2 years and a bit over) suffered inexplicable neurological deterioration.

    Eyesight and depth perception became unreliable, one hen became paralyzed for a bit, only to recover then die later, the other one went down quicker and just died within a month. The first lasted more than half a year in that state while I tried to treat her. I believe it's something genetic since nothing else explains its occurrence to hens of only that breed and that age despite the vast differences in husbandry methods, environments, feeds etc. There's no chicken disease known that matches those symptoms exactly. I theorize that their bodies cease producing some vital enzyme or nutrient. Would make sense since they tend to look geriatric from shortly after puberty onwards and appear to suffer premature aging. They don't look that scrappy for no reason, that's for sure.

    Liver disease and cardiovascular issues are endemic to commercial poultry of layer and meat breeds, partly due to genetics and partly due to diet, so if you want long-lived and healthy chooks, I cannot recommend the alternatives to Isabrowns highly enough... Better to get good quality heritage chooks, regular 'backyard' or farmyard mutts or mongrels, or some birds from a good breeder.

    Whatever strikes your fancy, just from a better background than Isabrowns come from.

    Some Rhode Island Reds may suit if you're really keeping them for eggs more than pets, or White Leghorns of a decent strain (I had two-a-day layers still going into their third year before dropping to one a day and still going for more years)... I have a Light Sussex hen that takes semi-regular breaks from laying to brood and mother, but she's 8 or 9 years old now and still going strong. I have Pekin-Jap-Silkie mixes still producing at least as reliably as my prematurely aged Black Sex Links, and more often too, and the banties are the oldest hens I have, the oldest one is a bit over a decade old now. I have mutts for the most part. Despite the often touted 'feed efficiency' of Isabrowns and the likes I find I can keep two mutts on the same amount of food and get more eggs between the two of them over many more years than the Isabrown would ever live.

    To address your questions specifically:

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