Wednesday, December 10, 2008

help: how did my chicken die?

I just got an email from a friend of a friend whose flock suddenly shrank from six urban chickens to five overnight, and she's wondering why her chicken died.

I haven't yet suffered this experience, so I'd love to find out from you, dear readers, what you'd recommend she do to find out how her chicken died.

Here's her story:
[I live in ] Brooklyn heights and I have six pet chickens in my backyard, or rather I did until one didn’t wake up. Now I have five, and I am wondering if you have any resources for me to help figure out why my chicken died!?

I wouldn’t have been surprised if it died a few nights ago when it was below freezing in NYC (although I rigged a heat lamp) but last night was a balmy 57 degrees.

She was a red Cochin, and seemed to be in the prime of health. There are no signs of injury, and she was locked in the coop overnight with the remaining five chickens, who all seem robust and unconcerned.

I guess I’m wondering if there’s a resource for self-diagnosis so I don’t have to pay some crazy sum to an urban vet to do a post-mortem.

Or maybe chickens just die?

I’d hate to miss something and then find all the rest of my flock dropping like flies too.

Thanks in advance for any guidance, and feel free to forward this email to whoever might have any information for me.
I already suggested she check out the forum on over on where else might she look for help figuring out what happened?

UPDATE: Oh yeah! I just remembered my "chicken doctor is in" post from a couple months ago. I'll pass along the contact info for Dr. Cummings to see what he says. Still would appreciate hearing from others if you've got similar leads.


Granny Annie said...

I would not guess the cold because chickens are hearty in below freezing temperatures. My first guess would be that she became egg-bound. You can determine that by examining her flap. That is something that happens and cannot be helped. Was there any lack of water for the chickens? There are a lot of good internet sources for diagnosis.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the tip, Granny Annie. Here's a couple resources I found re: egg-bound chickens over on one and two

I also dropped a line to Dr. Cummings to see if he had a guess (will share when he answers)

Peter said...

Upstairs neighbor of the chicken farmer here. A few more facts and answers.

-- I doubt water was not lacking. It's been rainign some and there are a few places where the water accumlates back there. Also, they keep pretty good care of these gals. The six year old is out there EVERY day.

-- Also, the chicken owner mentioned to me that the massive deep red comb (biggest comb of the 6) was bone white when they found her. Is that typical? Is that significant?

-- Don't know if the egg flap can be checked -- the remains may have been... set to rest.

Thanks all for the help.

Granny Annie said...

Peter, You are a good neighbor to share your friend's concern.

The discolored comb is definitely a sign of problems. Keeping an eye on the healty appearance of the comb is the easiest way to first identify potential problems. However does she know if the comb was discolored before the death?

I found this neat sight on poultry health and it might not tell why this hen died, but it might help going forward. Cut and past in browser.

sholbrooke said...

This is the sad owner here. i called last night, where i got the six day old chicks from this summer. one of their staffers called me back within a few hours to go over some of my concerns and help me try to figure out what went wrong. Granny Annie suggested she might have been egg-bound, and that seems to be the most likely cause. Apparently, according to the lady at, just before they start to lay, their comb fills out. And Omelet had a big, beautiful, bright red comb, quite a bit more well-formed than the other five. So it seems she was probably the first of my chicks ready to lay eggs, and it just didn't work for her. I haven't had a chance to examine her body but apparently it looks a bit messy, kind of like how pasting up might look, if they are egg bound. She also mentioned that when chickens get sick they don't have much time before they drop dead, they have such fast metabolisms. and that you can tell if they are sick sometimes by noticing a quick drop in weight - a normal hen can feel quite heavy one day and the next day can feel light as a feather if she's gotten sick. So from now on I'll have the kids make sure to hold each chicken every day (they normally do, but this was the visitors' chicken so she didn't get held quite as much) and we'll have some idea what "normal" is then.

thanks for everyone's ideas!

AgChick said...

Sorry you lost a hen, but I would say that sometimes chickens just die. As is the case for all of us, we will eventually die. It sounds like you're taking good care of your flock. I wouldn't put too much more time or effort into worrying about her now...just keep caring for those that are left.

flossie said...

I just put my hen down last night! I attended to her as I noticed ruffled feathers. her comb turned yellow. she picked little at her food and hardly ate. in her abdomen it was hard and enlarged. I too am wondering if it was egg bound or if anyone had a clue? I miss her so much and wonder what I did wrong. It would cost much more money for dr. to test why but she didnt deserve to b cut open.


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