Two hens died suddenly


12 Years
Jan 21, 2008
New Bern, NC
We have had five hens for just over four years (two Australorps, two BRs and one Polish). Last week one of the Australorps went broody. We would take her out of the coop each morning to try keep her out of the boxes to try to break her broodyness. Three days after she went broody I went to put them in their pen as the sun was setting and found her behind the coop laying oddly. I pulled her out and could tell that she was about to die (*there's a bit of graphic info I'll post at the bottom so those with a weak stomach don't have to read).

She died during the night and I assumed she just became ill and died as animals sometimes do. Other than her broodyness, she was not acting odd at all.

A few days later my husband went to the hens out of the coop in the morning and found the other Australorp dead under the roost. She had been acting normal and had laid an egg the day before.

It's too much of a coincidence that at four years old they both just died. I can't figure out what parasite or disease caused this and I'm worried that my remaining three will succumb to whatever it was.

Are there any diseases going around? Is there a parasite that will kill suddenly without prior symptoms? They (and we) haven't been around any other chickens and we live in a suburban neighborhood, so no other chickens around.

There is a lab a couple hours from here that performs necropsies and if another one dies, I'll take the body there. My husband burried the second as soon as he found her, so I didn't have time to think about getting her autopsied.

*When I found her she had small maggots all over her back end and fly(?) eggs "glued" to her feathers back there. I put her in a bathtub and cleaned her off as best I could to see if there was an injury back there, but couldn't find one. The second hen to die did not seem to have anything on her.


9 Years
Dec 5, 2010
Hi modenacart,

I'm sorry about your losses. It's very upsetting when birds die for no apparent reason, though chickens unfortunately tend to hide their illnesses until the last moment.

It may be coincidence you lost 2 at once, but if you haven't done this in a while, perhaps it's time to give all the birds a really thorough look over. Go to the roost at night with a strong torch and examine them closely. Look for any signs of wheezing, rattling in the chest, or nasal discharge (e.g. wet under the wings may come from tucking the head there even if there isn't obvious discharge).

Also make sure you check around the breastbone. If you can feel the bone and not much meat then it's possible they have something going on (worms, respiratory disease or other illness).

Check the vent area for signs of soiling (that may be worms, peritonitis from internal laying, or digestive infection). Check them for any mites or lice.

Also think of any changes there may have been (e.g. any baiting of rats? Any change to floor litter or free ranging?). Have they gotten access to any rotting food (e.g. compost) that may have harboured toxins?

If all seems fine, you may have just been unlucky with 2 dying at similar time.

Best of luck (I'm sure I've forgotten important things),


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