Livestock Need help with dying chickens

Loon

Veteran Member
In the last month we have lost 4 one and a half year old silver laced Wyandotte chickens. They have gone about a week apart. We have cleaned out the coop and their run and replaced with new pine shavings. All watering devices have been scrubbed with bleach and refilled with clean water. We put a little Braggs vinegar in the water. Always have. All the chickens that have died are the younger ones and all same breed. All were vaccinated when I bought them as day old chicks. The older flock of light brahmas have not died and are doing fine. They all free range on our large acreage. The last chicken we found dead this morning was separated from the rest of the flock for the last two weeks. She was in her own coop sitting on eggs as she had gone broody. She was doing fine till she died this morning. These were all sudden deaths. No signs of pasty butt or over filled crop. None seemed sick till they were found dead. No blood. No nothing. We are now down to 13 hens and one rooster. I don't want to lose any more.

Does anyone have any ideas of what else I can do?
 

naturallysweet

Has No Life - Lives on TB
I've read that predators can wake them in the middle of the night often enough that they can literally drop dead from exhaustion.
 

Loon

Veteran Member
How the heck do you get rid of spiders? The only snakes I've seen around here are the gartner snakes. We are in a wetland area and it is damp in the run which is why we keep putting down dry pine shavings. I'll show a pic of our setup. I am in mid Michigan by the Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron
 

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Loon

Veteran Member
I forgot to add these are old pictures and not pics of my current flock. The little doggy door leads to an indoor coop where they roost at night.
 

Cardinal

Snark: a higher form of communication
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Wow, beautiful setup Loon. I am sorry you are losing your babies, but they can be sick and will not show it until they drop. I have lost almost my entire flock to foxes this year. My new pullets will have to be entirely enclosed like yours are.
Is there a nearby University you can take the dead one to for a necropsy?
 

Handyman

Veteran Member
I do not know, coyotes have got more of our chickens, but ever now and then we find one dead for no apparent reason, if there all from the same batch could be some genetic problem, (we had those Cornish rock cross being raised for meat, I di not know how many that year die from heart attacks and fluid retention,

I ended up taking one or two of them to a vet and he cut them open and told us what was going on, (that was when the bird flu scare was going on), and want to make sure it was not hazardous to us and two to figure out how to save the other if possible,

as far as getting rid of spiders I do not know more asking if you have noticed any thing unusual or know to have some thing that is poisonous, biting and killing the chickens, most snake problems are more to the eggs than the chickens, and I do not know to what extent chickens are even effected by some, Read one Google search that some breed of chickens would be affected and some not, by spiders bites, but no proof or reference was given, so I do not know, what is true, all said chickens eating spiders was not a problem,

hope you figure out what could be the cause, are the birds in the same coop, or different coops,

any mouse poison they could have or be getting into, or even getting mice that have got into poison, I know we lost some cats to eating mice that were on there way out after eating the mouse poison,
 

Publius

TB Fanatic
Well, if they are not showing any external signs of disease or injury's it could be something they're eating while free-ranging.
I once had some friends that had some chickens that were dying on them and it took a few weeks before they figured it out! They were eating lead air gun pellets where the kids were target shooting.
What are you feeding them right now? If its laying mash try changing it to cracked and whole corn and wheat (scratch mix) at lest you can tell whats in it just from looking at it.
 

Loon

Veteran Member
No nearby universities to ask for help. No mouse poison. We have two barn cats that keep that taken care of. They even killed a small weasel last year. I found the dead body by the barn. We feed them layer mash and some cracked corn. I would think if the feed was bad all the chickens would be sick. I suppose there could be some kind of poison weed in the woods or something. They do free range daily. This last hen who died had been locked up by herself for two weeks though so I'm thinking that is not the case. She was sitting on eggs. So sad. She wanted to be a mom really bad. No signs of loose stool or anything. It's only the chickens from the same flock though so maybe it's genetic. They are a year and a half old though and all survived a really harsh winter. The first death came after they began free ranging though. It's a puzzle that's for sure. I just hope we don't lose any more.
 

duchess47

Veteran Member
Call your State Department of Agriculture Office. They will refer you to the office that will do necropsies for you. It cost me $30 to have them done on three chickens, they were very thorough, called me with a verbal report and then followed up with written. I thought I had a disease that was breed specific after losing six chickens. I found with the last three that some type of canine was getting in and shaking them to death.
 

JMG91

Veteran Member
Genetic was my first thought as well, especially if they're all the same breed and from the same clutch. Where did you buy them from? We had a girl of ours contract something suddenly and nothing that we gave her worked--we had gotten her from a feed store, and, unfortunately, you take a gamble buying them from places like that. I've heard that you're more likely to get chickens with genetic defects that way.

It's interesting though, someone from our church approached us last Sunday and told us a similar story. One of their hens just dropped dead, and they aren't sure from what. Agree with the others on finding a way to get a necropsy--it'll be the best way to find out whether your problem is genetic or not. Hope you don't lose any more babies! It's awful seeing them go. :bwl:
 

Loon

Veteran Member
Thanks everyone. I'll have to find out where our Dept. of Agriculture office is. We still have the last chicken that died in a garbage bag. I got this group of chickens as day old chickens from www.healthychicksandmore.com We've always ordered from them and never had a problem. These chickens are already a year and a half old. They all lived through a very tough winter here and survived. We have never had silver laced Wyandotte before though. They are a pretty bird and good layers. They have been free ranging and it is still wet here. Maybe we shouldn't have let them out till everything dried up good. I don't know. When we know it's going to rain we keep them in their run which is covered. We have had an awful lot of rain. No dead chickens today. That is good. They seem to die about two weeks apart. Not sure if that's a clue or not. Hopefully, if it is something contagious it will run it's course and nobody else will die. I was so sad when "mama" died though. I had already marked on the calendar May 20th which is when her babies would have hatched out. When my husband went out to feed her she was so still he poked her and she was stiff but still really hot so she must have just died ????? Her little coop is about 4 feet off the concrete floor inside the barn. It was full of clean pine shavings and the side doors were open for good ventilation as it was covered in screen. I hope she didn't suffer.
 

Deemy

Veteran Member
Why not call the place you bought them and ask what they think is going on?Don't make it sound like their fault but say you are looking for help.
 

Loon

Veteran Member
We dropped the dead chicken off at our vet's office for necropsy. The vet and his son are farm animal type vets. He called later this afternoon and said the chicken's lungs were clear and the only thing he could find was there was no food in her system and her liver was off. He asked me more questions and said he would run another test on something but didn't look like any normal chicken diseases. I told him they had been vaccinated as day old chicks. I know the chicken died day before yesterday so not the best specimen. I told him if another one dies I'll bring it in right away for exam. Hopefully, that won't be necessary. He said the fact she had no food in her system and little stool isn't unusual as when some hens go broody they don't eat much. Oh, and he charged $20. He'll call again if he finds anything else.
 

JMG91

Veteran Member
That's bizarre that you mention the mama being stiff but still hot. Our last hen that died did the same thing. I held her until she was stiffening--I have this paranoid fear of burying our animals alive, so I always hold my girls until I'm sure--but held her longer than the others that died because she still felt really hot, more specifically, her crop did. (Which is where we think one of her problems was originating from.) When we took her to the vet originally to get her abdomen drained--we thought at first that she had EYP--the doc drained 8 OZ. OF FLUID from her! Unfortunately, we were never able to find out what was wrong with her as we don't have a vet in this area that specializes in farm animals--the vet we took her to was an avian vet.

I hope you can figure out quickly what's going on. It'll make you feel much better knowing what you're dealing with.
 

NC Susan

Deceased
our poor orphington died when she ate a mouse filled with rat poison.
just saying, you wont always know what free range chickens can get into........
 

Loon

Veteran Member
Susan, I'm so sorry about your orphington that passed. The thing is, this chicken I had was NOT free ranging. She was in a small coop inside the barn sitting on eggs. She was broody and had been sitting for two weeks. This coop sits up off the ground about 4 feet. Floor in there is cement with pine shavings over it. She was totally isolated from the other hens and wasn't outdoors.

So far, no more sick or dying chickens (knock on wood). I guess we'll never know. If another dies I'll take it in right away for necropsy.
 
Loon, could there be a toxic plant on the property that the girls got into? I've had birds bring/drop something into the coop and was thinking maybe one of the others brought something in.

There's a fairly long list of plants that are toxic to chickens/ducks. Had a friend point out to me that my hydrangea bush in their run is one such offender. Never thought of hydrangea as dangerous!
 

Loon

Veteran Member
If the last hen who died hadn't been in isolation for better than two weeks (sitting on eggs) then I'd say maybe they got into something. We have 28 acres and I'm sure there are probably things they forage on that may not be a good thing to eat. All the rest of the hens and the rooster are doing fine since she passed. I tend to think it was something defective in that particular batch of hens since it was only that flock who died. None of the older flock died. It could be a coincidence though. Birds can die from a lot of different things and I guess we'll never know for sure. I do have hydrangeas but they are inside the fence around my house where the birds can't get to them.
 
If the last hen who died hadn't been in isolation for better than two weeks (sitting on eggs) then I'd say maybe they got into something. We have 28 acres and I'm sure there are probably things they forage on that may not be a good thing to eat. All the rest of the hens and the rooster are doing fine since she passed. I tend to think it was something defective in that particular batch of hens since it was only that flock who died. None of the older flock died. It could be a coincidence though. Birds can die from a lot of different things and I guess we'll never know for sure. I do have hydrangeas but they are inside the fence around my house where the birds can't get to them.

Well, glad to hear that the rest of your flock is fine !!!


Guess I'm going to be digging up one massive hydrangea....:tg:
 

summerthyme

Administrator
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Pyrate... truly, I don't think I'd destroy that bush! Maybe if you actually see birds tasting it, or lose birds from it... but there are so many plants that are at least POTENTIALLY toxic, and you don't see wild birds dropping dead from eating them! I free ranged my hens for several years, and had yew bushes (since removed, because they are terribly toxic to cows and horses, and they WILL sample the stuff) and a nice white hydrangea. I never lost a bird. I keep them penned up (large outdoor run) now because they love to dig up and eat too many of my herbs, and dust bathe in my raised beds, but not out of worry of them eating something dangerous.

We also have thousands of spring bulbs in the yard, and daffodil bulbs are highly toxic. No problems there, either.

If you're really going to worry about it, is there any way you can simply fence it off, so they can't get at it? They make green fencing which should blend in pretty well, if you're worried about appearances...

Summerthyme
 
Pyrate... truly, I don't think I'd destroy that bush! Maybe if you actually see birds tasting it, or lose birds from it... but there are so many plants that are at least POTENTIALLY toxic, and you don't see wild birds dropping dead from eating them! I free ranged my hens for several years, and had yew bushes (since removed, because they are terribly toxic to cows and horses, and they WILL sample the stuff) and a nice white hydrangea. I never lost a bird. I keep them penned up (large outdoor run) now because they love to dig up and eat too many of my herbs, and dust bathe in my raised beds, but not out of worry of them eating something dangerous.

We also have thousands of spring bulbs in the yard, and daffodil bulbs are highly toxic. No problems there, either.

If you're really going to worry about it, is there any way you can simply fence it off, so they can't get at it? They make green fencing which should blend in pretty well, if you're worried about appearances...

Summerthyme

I can try to move it somewhere perhaps. As it is now, it would literally be right in front of the coop itself. I'm only going to be able to keep 5 birds (city ordinance) so losing any would be a big loss. It's a bit dismaying to realize how many "toxic" plants I have. Plums? Clematis, fox glove, elderberry....
 

summerthyme

Administrator
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Elderberry? Good grief. PLUMS??

This is silly. (not pointed at you) The only thing I worry about (and I've got ALL SORTS of plants on some "toxic" lists) is cherry, and then only if a branch breaks and wilts. And my concern is for cattle and horses, not birds. Wilted cherry leaves contain serious cyanide levels and will kill large animals.

Chickens aren't the brightest animal around, but they've survived in the wild for a LONG, long time. Unless you're starving them, they're going to find plenty of safe stuff to eat.

I have foxglove *right next* to the coop fence, a plum ( and peach and cherry) trees in the herb beds right outside the fence. Elderberry across the driveway. I've never lost a bird when they were free ranging, and only occasionally lose a bird at all. Free range birds seem to mostly go for insects and seeds... they aren't grazers. (unlike geese, which love grass and greens)

Summerthyme
 
Elderberry? Good grief. PLUMS??

This is silly. (not pointed at you) The only thing I worry about (and I've got ALL SORTS of plants on some "toxic" lists) is cherry, and then only if a branch breaks and wilts. And my concern is for cattle and horses, not birds. Wilted cherry leaves contain serious cyanide levels and will kill large animals.

Chickens aren't the brightest animal around, but they've survived in the wild for a LONG, long time. Unless you're starving them, they're going to find plenty of safe stuff to eat.

I have foxglove *right next* to the coop fence, a plum ( and peach and cherry) trees in the herb beds right outside the fence. Elderberry across the driveway. I've never lost a bird when they were free ranging, and only occasionally lose a bird at all. Free range birds seem to mostly go for insects and seeds... they aren't grazers. (unlike geese, which love grass and greens)

Summerthyme
Thanks Summer! It's been a while since I had chickens...and there I at least had an acre. I'm just gonna chill and see how they do. The Elderberry's are all up front...the foxglove is REALLY hard for them to get to, so it was just this one bush. Sure appreciate the info and letting me know I can relax :)
 

bbkaren

Veteran Member
We dropped the dead chicken off at our vet's office for necropsy. The vet and his son are farm animal type vets. He called later this afternoon and said the chicken's lungs were clear and the only thing he could find was there was no food in her system and her liver was off. He asked me more questions and said he would run another test on something but didn't look like any normal chicken diseases. I told him they had been vaccinated as day old chicks. I know the chicken died day before yesterday so not the best specimen. I told him if another one dies I'll bring it in right away for exam. Hopefully, that won't be necessary. He said the fact she had no food in her system and little stool isn't unusual as when some hens go broody they don't eat much. Oh, and he charged $20. He'll call again if he finds anything else.
Loon, did you ever get a diagnosis?

I just finally got my diagnosis (confirming Marek's) after losing about half of the 19 chickens I bought last spring to Marek's. Sigh. I'm going to start breeding for resistance; I still have 4 of the original bunch so I'll start saving their eggs and go from there.
 

bbkaren

Veteran Member
Thanks Summer! It's been a while since I had chickens...and there I at least had an acre. I'm just gonna chill and see how they do. The Elderberry's are all up front...the foxglove is REALLY hard for them to get to, so it was just this one bush. Sure appreciate the info and letting me know I can relax :)
My chickens have been enjoying my elderberries ever since they started to ripen (to my aggravation! Grr) and thus far, no ill effects.
 

Loon

Veteran Member
No, I never did get any further diagnosis. Since I wrote this, we have lost two more chickens for unknown reasons. Haven't lost any more for about a month so I hope whatever it was is over. We do have an old 3 year old hen that is broody. We kept throwing her off the nest but she would go break the eggs of the other hens. We decided to put 5 golf balls under her and leave her alone. She's been sitting and sitting. While she was off to get a drink, my husband noticed three eggs on top of the golf balls. :) I guess we'll be surprised if those golf balls hatch. I was surprised she'd go broody at this age. Never a dull moment with hens that is for sure. Good luck with your breeding.
Loon, did you ever get a diagnosis?

I just finally got my diagnosis (confirming Marek's) after losing about half of the 19 chickens I bought last spring to Marek's. Sigh. I'm going to start breeding for resistance; I still have 4 of the original bunch so I'll start saving their eggs and go from there.
 

Night Owl

Veteran Member
Skunks kill for sport at night and holes around the outside coop? Had several skunks kill hens over the years, they'd come in and kill checkens, not sign of struggle and the rest of the hens acted like nothing happened during the night...they only wanted their food. You got a camera to watch at night...& keep a light on it may scare off preditors for a while.
 

Loon

Veteran Member
No. These hens got sick first then died. We do have a security camera on the coop though. Yesterday morning I saw about 50 turkeys visiting our hens. :)
 
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