Sudden Chicken Death: What Are the Causes?


Rhode Island RedOne day this winter I found a chicken dead in the coop.

I’ve lost birds before, because of a weasel attack and a pile-up as chicks. But this death was totally strange.

The night before, when I closed up the coop, all eight birds were roosting and looking fine. Nothing out of the ordinary.

The next morning, when I opened the coop for the day, all the hens were clucking away and bustling around like normal.

It was only later in the day when I brought the chickens back inside that I noticed the dead bird.

The hen was collapsed on her side on the floor at the back of the coop. Eyes closed. Body limp and floppy. She showed no obvious signs of trauma: no blood, no injury, nothing stuck in her mouth or throat. Her comb and wattles were cold and pale. But her abdomen was still slightly warm. There may have been a pulse when I checked under her wing; it may have been the pulse in my own fingers.

4/5/2021 11:56:55 AM

Hey Eva, I am very sorry about you loss, I know how it feels. Did your chicken look perfectly normal when you found her, but just motionless? Or was there anything unusual about her or other chickens that day or the day before? If not it might be very hard to tell what happened as there could been some underlying issue she was hiding. Any extra information would awesome. I also had a chicken, called Rox, (a young healthy rooster) that passed away today and cannot figure out what happened :(. I think he had been dead no more than 6 -7 hours when we found him. But when we found him his whole body was erect and he was very stiff and tucked in (like wings and legs). His was neck was stiff and rigid and was erect which wasn't in its usual position. His combe and wattle were a very dark purple colour, which I'm not sure is related to his cause of death or a result of time elapsed after his death. With this knowledge I'm guessing Rox had a heart attack as he was found in the pen that held the older chickens (1 rooster and 5 hens). Rox is a younger rooster and kept in the pen with the younger chickens. Rox was also a very timid rooster and spent most of his life just standing guard with the younger chickens and doesn't pick up a fight with anyone. So when he's usually with the older chickens, the older rooster chases him around and makes him stressed which is a big jump from his usual state of rest. I'm not sure if this caused him to have a heart attack as he been chased by the older rooster many times before (though in his younger days). He was also found next to the fence which I believe he had the ability to jump over. I now only realise that there was a sharp wire poking out near the top of the fence, which if he did try jumping onto the fence, could have poked him possibly and he might have fallen backwards. I'm not sure this was how he died as the wire didn't seem sharp enough to pierce his feathers (but pierce his skin for sure a bit of force). The last bit of information was that when I found him, which was around the time the chickens go to sleep, I noticed the older rooster(that chases the younger rooster around) had gotten in the younger chicken's pen and was sitting down next to the younger chickens where Rox usually rests for the night. This didn't make sense as the older rooster never goes into the younger chicken's side as he always sleeps with the older females on his side. I'm not sure if he did this because he felt sorry that Rox isn't alive to look after the younger chickens and went over to the other side. Also Rox was bleeding a little on his comb when I found him. This I assume was because the older rooster pecked him when the Rox goes to mate with the females which he has done to him many times before. Just thinking about now, when Rox is mating with the females and the older rooster pecks him to get him to get of them. Rox then gets a jump scare and immediately goes into panic and frightened state, which, again, is very different from his usual slow and relaxed life with the younger chickens. This could be a reason why possibly he had a heart attack. I am really stuck on how he died as there were absolutely no obvious signs of any sort that anything was wrong (healthy and happy as he always is). Rox was such a gentle and kind rooster and was very special to me. I will miss him very much.

Eva Bowman
6/5/2019 5:33:58 PM

I went outside to my coop this evening and was sitting with my chickens in the coop. I didnt think of anything when I didnt see the one chicken, but then looked under the coop, through the wire, and she was laying there and had no signs of life. We then moved her out and checked her over, there was nothing wrong with her. We then put her to the side and cleaned the coop, looked through the poop, and saw nothing wrong with any of it. She was only about a year old, so she should not ave had any problems. Please help me figure this out.

4/5/2019 5:48:36 PM

I have had 3 chickens die. 2 in next boxes and one mama with two chicks was fine yesterday and today dead. I feel back by their vent but don't feel anything like an egg. Not sure what is going on but this is getting a little uneasy. I have been unable to locate any bite marks no feathers missing no parts missing just dead hens. Just found the mother today took the babies in to be with the 3 I already had inside one from a mother that didn't know how to be a mother the other two I hatched in an incubator. .

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