Two dead hens...any ideas why?


8 Years
May 25, 2011
I kind of hate that my first post here is about dead hens. I've been reading this forum off and on for awhile, using it as a resource for our very small, urban flock.

We have (had) seven hens, right at two years old. Three Australorps, four Rhode Island Reds. On 5/11, we found one of the RIRs dead in the coop. No sign of trauma, no indication she wasn't feeling well. We've kept a pretty close eye on the hens since, and they seem to be completely fine. We figured maybe the Red was egg-bound or had a heart attack and buried her. But this morning, exactly two weeks after losing the first hen, we found an Australorp dead in the coop, same as the RIR. Now I'm worried.

The chickens have been eating their regular diet of layer feed, oyster shell, and grit, plus corn, spinach, apples, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries- we give them any fruit that's a little too far on the "ugly side of ripe" for our tastes. They have a roomy coop (transformed mini-barn) with four nesting boxes and an awesome perch with an enclosed sandbox underneath. Lots of ventilation, plenty of water, and a large enclosed run, the same kind of wood shavings on the ground we've been using since they were day-old chicks. No indication of weird poop or any other sign of a problem.

I really don't want to lose the flock, most especially my baby Bubbles, who loves to hop up on my lap for cuddles, but now that we've lost a second hen, I'm terrified we're going to lose the rest. Plus, we just got nine new chicks, five bantam Silkies, one RIR, and three Easter Eggers that we're raising in the basement until they're big enough to go to the coop, so I want to figure this out within the next five weeks or so!

We're in Indiana so I've called the lab at Purdue to find out about testing, and I have to wait till the doctor's back in to call back. In the meantime, any suggestions about what might be happening here?

Okay, update. The Purdue animal lab called and the doc walked my husband and me through an exam of the Australorp (her name was Cat). After an inspection (I was way too freaked out to do this before, not much better now). I have to say, a postmortem exam is a pretty upsetting thing to do, but highly informative, if you can stomach it. I'm not sure I can do it again, tbh, but my husband seems okay. Cat had a large, blood-filled sac by her vent. It was covered by her tail feathers, which is why we never noticed it. The vet said this is suggestive of her having a prolapsed uterus and being egg-bound. He's reasonably confident that we don't have an epidemic problem to worry about.

I never had to do anything like this with my cats, dogs, and hamsters...I guess I have to get used to examining the hens a little more closely, but I hope I don't have to see what I just saw ever again.

More than anything else, though, I'm just very relieved that it wasn't something that requires that we euthanize the flock. Still...ugh.
So sorry about your hens. However, it sounds like you've learned the most important part of keeping your flock healthy and that is to look at each bird carefully every single day and investigate anything that looks even slightly off. I have several hundred birds, but have taught myself to do this as I'm feeding and watering so I can catch problems in the early stages. Many things can become deadly if not noticed in time.

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