Why did my chicken die?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by AaronK, Sep 14, 2009.

  1. AaronK

    AaronK Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 14, 2009
    Hi All,

    My chicken died suddenly yesterday and I was wondering if anyone here could help me figure out why.

    She was a Rhode Island Red. about 1 year old, maybe 8-9 lbs. We kept her with another Red Star in a chicken tractor big enough to comfortably hold 2-3 more hens. Overall pleasant demeanor, if a bit of a loud crower.

    Up until today:
    Great layer - we have gotten 6+ eggs a week from her for several weeks now. Eggs were large-jumbo size. She appeared to be the "leader" of our 2-chicken coop, but peaceful. We got her about 3 months ago, though, and she has always had small patches of feathers missing on the part of her neck closest to her head. I have been feeding her Southern States layer pellets, as well as free choice grit and oyster shell. I replace the water at least once a day and clean out the watering container with soap every 2-3 days when i notice scum/algae starting.

    Woke up fine. I fed her the usual amount at the usual time + water. Weather was sunny and around 80F. not nearly as hot as it's been. Around noon I collected the egg she layed. plenty of food and water left. all poop was normal. Around 5PM noticed that she was sitting in a corner of the pen, very week and tired looking, with a wing flopped down. comb and wattle quite pale. the water was dry. I took her out, tried to give her fresh water, but she didnt take it. was really unresponsive, and a couple minutes later experienced a really horrible spasm and died. The poor dear.

    I checked her over for lice - nothing. I did dust them for lice several weeks ago when the other hen had them, but there was nothing now. All the poop looked fine. their coop is fairly clean, and nothing was really out of the ordinary. water was empty, which is strange since there have been much hotter days, and it couldnt have been empty longer than a couple hours at most. plus, the other chicken (1-2 lbs lighter) appears 100% fine. The ONE thing i did notice was that she had lost quite a few feathers on her belly side - under wings, near thighs, etc. I dont regularly pick her up and handle her, and she looks fine from the top/sides, so I didnt see this until now. also, there were no feathers on the ground, and we move the tractor every couple days, so i'd see.

    Any ideas on what this couldve been? is dehydration possible? poisoning? could she have fallen and broken something? she perch level of the coop is only about 20" above ground.

    anyway, thanks for any help or advice. I'll be monitoring the other one closely for the next few days.

    Last edited: Sep 14, 2009
  2. meriruka

    meriruka Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 18, 2007
    Sorry for your loss.
    It doesn't sound like she had any visible problems, I can't imagine what was wrong. It's awful not knowing why, you have the added worry of wondering if the others are ok.
  3. AaronK

    AaronK Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 14, 2009
    thanks. yeah, i'm really concerned about my other one.

    meanwhile, a google search yields many results for "sudden chicken death" - unfortunately - but at least it is some comfort to know that these things happen apparently inexplicably and are common too... and that there may not have been anything i could have done.

    still, if anyone could offer some advice, i'd really appreciate it.
  4. knotmyline

    knotmyline New Egg

    May 23, 2010
    Eagle Point
    Hi Aaron
    Today one of our Rhode Island Reds died suddenly. We had no warning and found her in the chicken yard stiff and dead. There were no signs of injury and no warning. She, we think, has been the only hen to still be laying peewee eggs. All of our birds are about 10 months old. Our university extension that does necropsies is over 200 miles from here, so we have elected to closely monitor the remaining 9 hens. Did you learn anything further about your RIR death? Have you had any other deaths? Ron
  5. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    Very odd, as my first thought would be egg bound or production problem of that sort causing internal damage. You had an egg from her that day so it's a mystery.

    Though your still in an area that allows algea in water is a mystery to me too. Yeah, BYC has members all the way to upside Australia where the toilets work back wards. Perhaps you did have a heat wave and she did not get enough water...We, as in me in the USA, are entering winter months and algea would not even cross my mind this time of year.
  6. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    What I was really asking is "where are you from?" and "How hot was it that day?"
    I'm grasping maybe but the algea still has me wondering where your posting from.
  7. chicks4kids

    chicks4kids Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 22, 2009
    Northern Indiana
    I don't think it was dehydration at all. I think she may have just have had heart failure. If you've had her for only 3 months, then you really have no idea what she was fed and how that affected her body. As far as her missing feathers on her neck and head, that sounds like she was around a roo who would "hold on" to her there and in turn, feathers would be pulled out.

    The spasm that you say she had just makes me think it was a heart failure. I honestly don't think that it's anything that you did. Are you able to get another hen from somebody so the one you still have has a friend??
  8. geebs

    geebs Lovin' the Lowriders!

    Sep 28, 2008
    Honestly....sounds like a dog got her... I know that will sound far fetched but under the wings near the thighs.... It does make sense.... Did she get out and someone put her back in...
  9. AaronK

    AaronK Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 14, 2009
    After this happened I did a lot of research on the subject. While it was very sad and disturbing to have this happen, I now believe that it was just a case of "sudden death syndrome." I'm not entirely sure what that is - whether it just means heart failure on its own or a rapid onset of an illness that causes heart failure. But there were no other signs of illness for longer than the few minutes before she passed.

    We immediately found a companion for the remaining hen, and she is going strong since then.
  10. ranchhand

    ranchhand Rest in Peace 1956-2011

    Aug 25, 2008
    AaronK, you need to post more often! I read all through before realizing this thread is over a year old! Glad you are reading still and could respond.

    I suspect a heart issue as well, having lost one to it earlier this year. Do you remember if your hen's comb turned bluish before she died? From what I have read it indicates a lack of proper circulation, i.e. a lack of oxygen flow to the extremities. My veterinarian thought the same, but we didn't necropsy that particular rooster.

    Very happy to hear your hen and her "new" friend are doing well.

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