What is happening to my chickens!!


7 Years
Jan 3, 2013
Englewood, OH
I have lost one chicken every 4-6 weeks for the last 3-4 months and this week it looks like I am going to lose my 2nd one in a week. I really think it’s botulism, but I guess I can’t be sure. The symptoms with all of them have basically been the same. They only began really showing signs within 24 hours of dying. Symptoms include lethargy, random, somewhat painful sounding squawks, stop eating, followed by laying down and ultimately dying. The rooster we found dead after virtually no signs of sickness, and his head was bent back over his shoulder. I understand that could point to botulism?
At any rate, I have separated my water from next to the feed to avoid any mold/ contamination in their coop. I have been sure to clean up any spilled food from their coop and I clean their coop daily (similar to how you clean a kitty litter) so there isn’t large amounts of waste where they live either. They do free range all day so they only are in coop to lay and sleep. I am worried they may be getting into something that I am not aware of on the property, although I have check over it all exhaustively. I also keep food in a rubber maid bin, so there has been no moisture in there. I really at am a loss on this and am thinking of giving the whole chicken thing up (which breaks my heart.) We love our chickens and never would have believed they could bring such joy to our family but I guess I just don't have the knack for this? It’s just too traumatic to keep losing these chickens to what appears to be a very painful disease and have no idea why or how to stop it? Not sure what others can offer, but thought I would throw this last hail Mary out there. Thanks in advance for reading.


Summary of chicken deaths / date

Polish Frizzle – Died 4/14

Golden Comet – Died 6/21

Amaracauna Rooster – Died 7/22

Buff Oprington – Died 9/16

New Jersey Giant – Most likely will die todayL

Pic of some of the girls (and rooster) that have passed.

A pic of my baby with our babies.
Sorry for you losses... Can you weight your Jersey Giant? Roosters should weight 13 pounds, hens 10 pounds. If your bird is well under these weights, I suspect that you have something other than botulism; the neck bent over the back is a common position for them to die in. To find out what it is, have a necropsy done by the State lab.

Thanks for the info Cathy. The Jersey Giant is easily close to 10lbs. She's a big girl that otherwise, looks super healthy. My BO that died this week was huge and looked really good as well. I really have no idea what the cause of death is, so a necropsy would be very interesting. Thanks again.
I had some chickens die like that, one every few months. Turned out to be Marek's. But if it were, they waste away over a period of time, not die suddenly. Check their weight and crop every day to see if they're wasting . Most of my demises wasted for a while but always looked like they were eating. Within the last 5 days, it seemed they were sleeping and not eating, but only noticed at the end.
So sorry for the lost chickens! I know how devastating it is to be losing birds, not know the cause, not know what to do, and think it might be better to give up! Yeah, been there, (just last week) and I may get there again, but I hope not. I know I'm not any help, but I am hoping for a good outcome for you and your chickens.
I haven't had this problem before, but please don't give up raising chickens!!!!! :bow
I had to basically replace my entire flock after they began trying to kill each other. My dog also ate one of them, and I had to give another overly aggressive one away. I replaced them all. And now they are perfectly fine. It was my first time raising chickens, too. It really helps when you start over but already have experience. But I really do hope that everything works out for you! It was horrible having to give up my chickens that I raised since day one.
Thank you very much for all the kind words of encouragement and good information. It makes me feel better, albeit slightly, that others have experienced something like this.. Now, let me clarify by saying, not in the sense that others lost chickens, but just that maybe I am not a total screw up?? This chicken raising business can go from easy street to super complicated over night!! Factor in with that a genuine love for these little suckers and that right there is a recipe for some serious BYC Angst! I couldn't imagine not having chickens running around my yard... let alone having to buy eggs from the store again (gasp!) This is why I just have to know what's going on so I can learn something from this. Losing a chicken is one thing if you can take something away from the experience like knowledge, signs to recognize, treatment plans etc. But to lose them and have no idea what you may or may not be doing wrong is beyond aggravating.

An update on my JG. She is still alive. Appears to be moving around and also somewhat foraging. But last night, when they were roosted and should have been sleeping, she kept periodically making this random squawk (poor explanation, I know. It really is a random, loud, painful sounding single squawk.. breaks my heart every time we hear it.) Has anyone ever heard this, or had this happen? My wife has been keeping a close eye on her and the other chickens and I guess all we can do is wait it out? If this one passes, I will definitely be sending her in for a necropsy. My little flock is down to 5 chickens and the kids and wife are really wanting to get more asap. I just want to make sure this is handled before doing that.

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