What am I doing wrong?


In the Brooder
Jun 20, 2019
Lancaster, PA
Hi friends,

I am once again here to get some advice, as this website & the wonderful people here have been incredibly helpful! Basically, I have had quite a few chicken deaths (all of them being a little over a year old) and many issues in the past year and I want to know what I'm doing wrong.

Two summers ago (2019) I decided to get chickens. I got 5 hens, an accidental rooster, and a meat chicken (Also accidental- she is my pet and I love her dearly!) Now, all I have left is the rooster, two of the hens, and the meat chicken. (Funny, the meat chicken has had no problems and has lived a healthy life so far- I was expecting her to die first, not three of our hens! :hit)

The first two to go were our two buff orpingtons- Both were healthy up until they had heart attacks and died suddenly (our vet confirmed that this is what killed them). I loved them both so much, I was so sad to see them die so young. Now, I just lost my baby, my little Polish bantam, about a week ago- she had an egg break inside of her, which I confirmed as there were egg pieces coming out of her, and then she died that night.
Now, what's pushing me to make this post, is that my top hen named Gracie had an egg break inside of her too- Only a week from my baby dying from the same thing! I was able to get most of the egg out of her (it was a soft shell) and she's doing okay for now but I don't have the heart to lose another hen so quickly and so young. Along with these deaths, we had a hen get a bacteria infection twice, and the Polish bantam always seemed to have trouble laying eggs, plus Gracie actually had an egg break inside of her a few months ago too- Just so many problems! I will now tell you some info of how I care for them-

First off, had been feeding them all Purina Flock Raiser with oyster shell always available in a separate container, because I read that was best (especially because the Gracie seemed to pick on the others more when fed layer feed- so I thought more protein would be better). This seemed to be fine for the better part of having chickens. Now that I lost my Polish baby, I thought maybe the egg had broken due to not feeding them layer feed, maybe she was missing certain nutrients? So I switched the hens back to Layer feed a week ago when I lost her, thinking it would be better for them.
Now, today, the top hen was acting fine all day, until I noticed her all puffed up about two hours ago. I immediately checked her out, and noticed there was yellowy yolk coming out of her vent, and my heart dropped- since I literally JUST lost my baby to the exact same thing! I immediately went to check for egg shell, and I managed to get most of it out, I believe (it was a soft shell). As soon as the yolk was out she turned around and tried to eat it- Which makes me wonder if she's not getting enough protein again? Also, Gracie actually had an egg break inside of her once before, a few months ago, but she was able to get all of it out and was fine.

I will also note that the rooster, meat chicken, and two hens are all in separate areas of the same chicken run, and they all get an hour or so every afternoon to roam the yard together (Supervised, since we have lots of predators around here). I live in the valley, so we do get less light due to tall trees and such, I don't know if that matters, but they usually get a few hours of full sun on sunny days. Like I said, oyster shell is always available and so is grit, and food and water. I give them apple cider vinegar water once a week. The chicken run is 10 by 16 feet, with the coop inside of the run and two areas separated for the roo and meatie. The hens have room to walk around the coop, dust bathe, and we built some stairs that they love to climb during the day. I change their bedding (wood chips) once a week and the straw in their run once a week as well.

I don't know what other information would be helpful but I can answer any questions. I just want to know why my chickens are having so much trouble, I love them so much and I don't want to lose any more so soon.

Regardless, thank you for taking the time to read this, and if you have any info or tips as to what the problem could be, please let me know! I was thinking of getting more chicks next year (since we only have two hens now) but I'm afraid I'm doing something wrong, and I don't want to get more until I know!
.... I don't know what hasn't been covered than what's in your post. I feed a 19-20% chick starter with oyster shell on the side. I'm sorry you're having this repeat issue. Do they free range or are they in a run where you can monitor all the possible food sources?
.... I don't know what hasn't been covered than what's in your post. I feed a 19-20% chick starter with oyster shell on the side. I'm sorry you're having this repeat issue. Do they free range or are they in a run where you can monitor all the possible food sources?

I give them scratch in the winter, not too much, just a bit on colder days/nights, and occasionally meal worms, and chopped tomatoes in the summer, and I have given them all yogurt maybe twice total, both in the summer, not recently. I make sure to not feed them too many treats at one time, as well. And yes, they're inside of a run for most of the day, and get an hour or so to free range in the evenings. I will say there is Myrtle outside of their run, which I believe is poisonous? But I have never once seen any of them eat it (I supervise them while they're free-ranging) and they usually are digging under the trees and not near the myrtle, so I don't see that being the problem.

So, you have been feeding your hens chick starter too? How long have you been doing that, and have you had any problems? And thank you, I hope it doesn't happen anymore, I am just so unsure of what to do :hit

Could it be possible that some of the problems are genetic, or something? That's the only other thing I can think of!
I've never had this problem myself. I don't know anything about genetics. I used to feed exclusively layer feed with no issues, this flock it's is chick starter with oyster shell and stil no problems. I also free range.
Are these the same sick birds you have other threads about?

The chicks that were sick were the 3 polish bantams I got. It turned out to be a respiratory issue, it killed one chick and affected the roo, but he lived after I got medicine. As for the polish bantam hen (the one that passed away a week ago), she was not sick with the respiratory issue, only coccidiosis, as all three of the chicks were, too. I also gave them medicine for that and it hasn't affected them since, from what I can tell.

The other two hens that passed away were healthy from start to finish, until they both had heart attacks very suddenly. It is just so strange to me.

I will also note, the Polish bantam hen always seemed to have a little trouble laying eggs, I think? She would always sit in the nest for like 2 or 3 hours before laying, and she would walk around and cry sometimes before she laid her egg, which makes me wonder if there was some sort of long-term issue I didn't identify...

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