Death of my girl

by Johnny
(New Zealand)

Question:

Death of my girl: I had 4 free-range Hy-line ladies, all approximately 1 year old.


Over the course of the last two weeks I noticed that one of them wasn't laying. I didn't stress-out.

Never noticed any abnormal behavior or symptoms until this morning...I fed them their scraps and they all dived in, as usual, except one girl in particular.

She just stood her ground and slowly trotted off into the coop, showing no interest whatsoever.
I followed her into the coop where she turned her back on me.

Her body was puffed-up, tail down and her eyes looked sleepy. Within two hours, before I had a chance to call a vet, she had died.

No sign of parasites externally, but a slightly bare, featherless rear.

It’s been really sad, as always when a pet dies.
Would love to know the possible causes of her death.

Answer:
We’re so sorry for this sudden loss. Based on what you have relayed here about her condition it could be a number of things.

The first thing, since you said she stopped laying, is the possibility of her becoming “egg bound”.

Causes for this could be genetic abnormalities, unknown injury, calcium deficiency, dehydration or lack of exercise.

If a hen becomes egg bound this can block the exit of her digestive system, causing a toxic build up that would spread quickly through her body, causing loss of appetite, and the bird feeling sick.

Chickens, when not feeling well, will try to hide weakness as long as possible. Weakness would make them appear inviting to predators, so they keep up normal appearances as long as possible.

This is one reason why a chicken would seem to die so suddenly of no apparent cause. In many birds, not just chickens, being egg bound can lead to death in a 24 hour period.

The stronger healthier the bird, the longer they can look normal. This is just a possible answer to your question.

I hope you are not feeling guilty for not seeing something sooner. There could be so many other issues that could have lead to her death, but without being able to examine her and her surroundings, there is just no way to know for sure.

If you need to know, your vet could examine her and see if he can give you the answer you are looking for.

There are a number of reasons a hen would stop laying, from her normal cycle of laying- becoming broody-setting and hatching eggs, to disease, something toxic in her environment, and unseen predator attack.

I’m sure you want to understand this to prevent it from happening in the future. The best thing to do is take the best possible care of your chickens, as I’m sure you are doing.

See if there could be any improvements in diet, supplements or environment; and in noticing any change try to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible.

There are no guarantees and as I said, chickens try to hide any weakness. You might want to take a stool sample to your vet, from one of the other birds, and see if there is any sign of parasites or disease.

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