We have a mystery going on....


In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 30, 2013
About 2 months ago, one of our RIR roosters (he wasn't old enough to crow yet but he was almost there) died, suddenly. We had been outside all day and he was free ranging. Then out of no where, that evening he started acting lethargic,wobbly and not really wanting to do anything. He started breathing really shallow and then he couldn't really move. My husband had to put him down because he was just suffering. This happened all within an hour MAYBE an hour an half. We didn't really know what to think about it.

He was with a group of 4 chick that we purchased at 2 days old. Two RIR and two Barred Rock. They were all 4 roosters. We had sold two of them and we had one of each left. The Barred Rock had completely flourished and he was/is SUPER beautiful and healthy. The RIR was very big and healthy too. About two days leading up him passing, we thought maybe the Barred Rock was beating up on the RIR and he wasn't being able to eat. We separated him out with his own hens and he seemed fine.

We kind of chalked it up to not knowing what happened and moved on.

Now, at the end of July our Silver Duckwing Bantam hatched her first clutch. Five out of six hatched. They have all been HAPPY, beautiful and healthy. Absolutely THRIVING. We got two rooster and three hens out of the clutch. They were 8 weeks old this past Wednesday the 11th. We have had absolutely no problems with them, whatsoever. Yesterday, my husband picked up one of the chicks (a hen) and made a comment that it felt sort of light but we know that she was eating and she was running around, very active, eating and drinking. We just let it go. Today, while me and my husband were outside building chicken pens, we went over to check on the mama and her babies. Mama and all 5 of her chicks were just fine. All eating, drinking and acting normal. Around 8:30 pm, we rounded everything up and we were getting ready to head inside. I went inside and my husband went back out to make sure all of the chickens were in the coop and all of the babies were too. He opened up Bonnie's (our silver duckwing hen) nesting boxes door to count all the chickens. He noticed that one of the chicks was in the back corner (where she normally slept) but she didn't look "right." He knocked on the side of the coop and she didn't move. So he went in the pen and grabbed her out of the coop and she was dead. :( He said that she was still warm so that she must have just passed. He also said that she was flat on one side (the side she was laying on). Now, we don't know if the two incidents are related because we weren't really watching the chicks closely. We didn't have any reason to believe that needed to be watched closely.

So what in the world could be going on? None of them were showing any signs of being sick at all.
Do you put any sort of rat poison on your property such as decon on kibble? It looks like dog food with green powder on it? Check for toxic plants that you may have around.

Or possibly a treat you may have given that was not good, such as apples with the seeds.

Especially look out for Hemlock or Yews, nick named, "Tree of death" and very common shrub seen in almost every landscape. It makes small red berries, but the entire shrub from root to leaf is toxic.

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We don't give our chickens treats, especially chicks. And if we do give treats, it may be some bread or tomato. I could understand if our RIR rooster had gotten into a plant that was poisonous because he was allowed to free range but our chicks have only been let out of their pen with mama hen once or twice and this was weeks before last nights incident. I would assume that if a poisonous plant was inside their pen, all of them would be sick but I haven't seen any of these plants. We do have Azaelas but they are in front of our home and that's a ways away from where our chicken pens are and they don't venture over to our house.

I do have another questions though. Our hen that hatched her first clutch, just started laying again this past week. Is it a possibility she is being aggressive towards the chicks that are still with her. Our chicks are only 8 weeks old. The chick wasn't bleeding from anywhere visible that my husband could see (it was dark outside when he found her.)
I recommend asking your other question separately in a new forum under "Chicken behaviors and egg laying" or "Managing your flock" Title it something like, "Help with Hen aggression to clutch"
Just copy and paste your 2nd question and I'm sure you'll get a better response in those forums.

Sorry there are no solid answers for the sudden death on the other chicks. Check for wild poisonous mushrooms too.
I found one other possible cause for sudden death in free range chickens. Read this thread on bug spray or yard treatments.
So sorry to learn of the ordeal with your chickens Hannah. I can't speak to the relatedness of those events unfortunately but do hope the situation resolves on its own.

I am writing to get some backyard chicken related information for the Jackson County, GA area if possible. We are new to GA and are now residing in Athens-Clarke County. We are looking to buy a home by middle of next year and seriously desire an area that allows us to keep backyard chickens without feeling that we are breaking the law. I've never kept BYCs before but can't wait to begin. Our hope is to keep 4-5 chickens at a time and we can be flexible on whether or not a rooster is included in this number. We also won't mind putting them in a coop but I don't want to end up in a place where neighbors freak out over a little hen walking around my hard.

I have been searching the web without getting much clarity.... would you happen to know whether there are areas of Jackson County that expressly prohibit backyard chickens? What kind of restrictions are there - if any, to BYC ownership in Braselton, Jefferson, Monroe and/or Talmo, GA?

We are serious enough about owning our own chickens that I am filtering our home search based on this. I'd appreciate any information on this from you or any other members in the forum.

With thanks for any and all information.


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