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Tragic loss of hen during separation

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by chuckun, Oct 10, 2016.

  1. chuckun

    chuckun In the Brooder

    Sep 26, 2014
    We are so very sad that our Barred Rock just died suddenly at age 2 while being separated in a dog crate for being a bully. We feel terrible and responsible and we are still in shock. I am writing to ask whether anyone else has experienced anything like this, and also to try to better understand what happened to our dear hen.

    Our four hens are all the same age, acquired at the same time as day-old chicks mail-order. Several weeks ago, our BR (Pantsy) started bullying the Easter Egger (Holly). The EE had became completely stressed around the BR, always ran from her, and had stopped laying. We waited and watched, making sure every hen had time and opportunity to eat and drink and free range. (They free range only supervised because we have a lot of predators and the yard is inadequately fenced.) Finally we thought we should separate the BR, and whenever we did, even by just by letting the BR range while keeping the others closed in the run, the EE was instantly relieved and took her place tin the small flock without the BR chasing her away.

    We have a brand new large-sized dog crate in the basement for isolation when needed, and we have used it primarily to break a broody spell. The crate is spacious and we fitted a dowel in it as a perch. The weather now is warm, so we moved the crate outdoors, near the coop and run, so the separated hens could see each other. We read that they should be able to view each other during separation for bullying.

    Our BR Pantsy spent Friday night in the crate and then free ranged Saturday morning with the other 3 in the flock. When she came upon the 3 dust-bathing, she again chased the EE away, and hung around the other two bathers but did not join them. All of our 4 hens used to dust bathe together all the time in harmony - we never had these conflicts before.

    We left at about 1:00 PM, returning the BR to the crate, and the other three to the run. The BR went willingly into the crate where we had put some feed and half an apple. We also put water in a bowl on the crate floor.

    We came home at 6:30, and I went up to the coop and crate to let them all out to range. To my horror I found our BR Pantsy dead in the crate! She was stiff, eyes closed, lying on her side, no marks or secretions or cuts. Feet pulled in. We immediately thought dehydration - the water bowl was emptied and we had failed to put a water source that could not be knocked over. It did get up into the mid 80's that day, and the crate was in only partial shade. But the crate was well ventilated, and the weather was also somewhat breezy with no humidity. Poor Pantsy had eaten all the feed as well as half the apple in the crate, and there was no poop. She felt warm to the touch, but not hot, and was quite stiff. We were so devastated, we tearfully wrapped her in linen cloth and buried her soon after.

    We instantly blamed ourselves. Why didn't we leave the crate in the cool basement? Of course vowed to be ever more vigilant in the future. The crate needs a water bottle, period. That's assuming we ever use it again for anything other than as a brooder. But I'm still not sure how and why this happened.

    The next day I read stories of other hens who got trapped for hours if not days without food or water and survived. I also read about chickens dying suddenly despite seeming to be in perfect health, and I read about factory birds who have short life spans because they are bred to produce and grow meaty quickly.

    When we bought Pantsy, her breed (BR) was "on special," meaning the hatchery was selling Barred Rock chicks at a discount. She grew much faster than the others, and was soon the heaviest. She was also the first to lay. Her eggs were giant at first, sometimes with two yolks, and they have always been somewhat misshapen, lumpy all around the middle, though the shells were sufficiently hard. She layed eggs regularly, almost never missing a day. She laid a final egg in the crate on Friday, so I do not believe she was egg-bound when she died on Saturday.

    We are newbie urban farmers but we do try: we feed our hens top quality feed, along with daily treats of fresh lettuces, carrot peelings and yogurt, among other goodies. If Pantsy had a heath condition, we did not know about it. There is no denying that her confinement contributed to her death, but could it have been the nay cause? It's painfully ironic that after all the effort we put into feeding our birds and safeguarding them from predators, one of our hens dies at our own hands.

    If you have any thoughts about our beloved Pantsy, we'd appreciate hearing it. Is a dog crate just a bad idea for chickens? Could isolation alone have caused her death? We are especially interested in other people's experiences so we can make better sense of ours. We just want to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again. We're so very sorry.


  2. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive Free Ranging Premium Member

    Apr 3, 2011
    southern Ohio
    Please don't beat yourself up about losing your chicken. Unless her crate was in the hot sun and the temperature was very hot, she should have survived without water for 5 hours. In the picture whenever it was taken, she looks to have a pretty full crop. She could have suffered a crop problem, a heart attack, or some other health problem. Without a necropsy done by the state vet, it would be hard to know. We all lose a chicken now and then, and many times don't know why. Whenever I use a crate to isolate a chicken I try to use a heavy bowl or a coffee can full of water to make it difficult to turn over. You can also wire a container to the crate door. Sorry for your loss, and hopefully you will enjoy your remaining chickens.
  3. chuckun

    chuckun In the Brooder

    Sep 26, 2014
    Thank you for your kind reply. We are still investigating the heat factor in case we are not remembering the conditions correctly. We put a thermometer in the crate to see how hot it gets on a similarly warm day. It's been about 10 degrees cooler since Saturday, so we don't know yet. We get a lot of fluctuation. Maybe she was also more vulnerable because of her coloring.

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