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random chicken deaths?

Posts: 60
Location: Central Pa
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So I have been raising chickens for years as long as I can remember and only lost a few to predators or old age never had any get sick. I hatched some last year to replace my laying flock and came out on morning to find one of my new laying hens dead laying near the water, I wasn't sure why no signs of anything like attack. The pen they are housed in at night is 14*10 chainlinked fence so nothing got in just seemed to have dropped dead. I know it can happen so nothing really came as the rest of the chickens looked fine and they now are at my dads and I moved my newest 6 chickens into the pen they are not laying age yet and I also added 5 laying ducks to come out an find after having been in the pen together for closing in on a week the one barred rock dead in the nesting box same thing not a scratch or anything just seemly dropped dead. I didn't notice anything off the day before. This being about 3 months since the last one just died. I am going to start adding DE to the feed incase it is some kind of worm problem but im not too sure what else It could of been. I know chickens can die an while its sad it was only a chicken but this has me a little worried as the ducks are in with them if it is something I need to treat I want to do it so I don't lose any more chickens or ducks as the duck eggs pay for the feed to my chickens and rabbits.
Posts: 391
Location: NW Montana, USA
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Are you willing to do an nercopsy?  There's really not other way of knowing unless you open the birds up.

If it were a worms problem your hens would probably have chronic diarrhea and be very skinny.  I know chicken worms exist, but I think they're regional.  I've NEVER seen chicken worms, personally, having kept birds in Idaho and Montana.  But I know folks in warmer/wetter climates can struggle with them.

The main cause of early death I've had in hens is internal laying; there can be almost no symptom or there can be a long, steady decline of the bird.  Basically there's holes in the hen's reproductive tract and yolk drop down into the abdomen.  It's harmless to the hen until the yolk starts to become infected, then the infection kills her.

I've had hens lay intermittently and last 3-4 years with internal laying.  I've had pullets die from it before they ever laid their first egg.  I've had hens drop dead on me and I didn't know what happened until I opened her up.  I've had hens obviously battling the IL infection for months or more before dying.
Did you notice any sign of respiratory distress or limping in the birds before they died?

Things to look for if you suspect a hen is laying internally;
- yolk in the feces or egg-smelling feces
- saggy/squishy/distended abdomen
- if battling infection; lethargy, blueing of the comb/wattles, labored breathing
- a dead hen; rotten egg smell and/or yolk-like discharge from abdomen (if you open her up you'll find the rotten yolk in her body cavity)

It might not be that!  But that does happen.  I've had most of my IL deaths from hatchery stock and production birds; I've probably lost 12-20 hens to it.  Of my 'rare breed' and non-hatchery birds, I've only ever lost 1 or 2 to IL.  Out of hundreds or thousands of birds over the years.  

Other things I've lost hens randomly to:
- bad genes; I had one awesome hen drop dead on me. She was a red ranger/marans cross. I  opened her up and her entire body cavity was PACKED with fat.  Her heart and chest, her abdomen.  She was a fat football.  That's what I get for crossing a meat hybrid I guess.  All ofm y red rangers died before they were 4 years old, the breed wasn't long lived.
- egg binding; I've only seen it once out of hundreds of hens, but I did have an Ameraucana die on the nest egg-bound once.  Poor girl, I didn't find her until she'd already passed
- I haven't lost a bird to mites, but I've come close.  Mites/lice can infest a chicken whose immune system is poor or who doesn't have access to dust bathing, and you won't know anything's amiss until the chicken is nearly dead from blood loss if you haven't been watching your birds for signs of infestation.  It can escalate very quickly!  Look under the feathers at the skin for egg clusters and tiny bugs.  DE in the dust bath works great for this; also letting them bathe in wood ash
- Old age; my oldest hens have died around 8 years old

Also; most poultry/fowl diseases are species-specific.  There are a "couple" rare exceptions which are mostly found in industry/factory settings where millions/billions of sickly birds are sharing the same soil.  If your chickens are dying and not the ducks, I wouldn't worry about it, personally.  I've kept all manner of fowl together in the same flock and personally have never had a problem.  I'm sure there are people out there who have. But in my experience, it's usually NOT some kind of contagious disease.  Usually.
hunter miller
Posts: 60
Location: Central Pa
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I disposed of the corpse as I didn't want it around but she wasn't laying yet an the first one was laying for month or two. really just no signs of anything just looked like they dropped dead but this last one was in the nesting box as if It knew is was sick an wanted to hide which made me wonder. I butcher a lot of chickens and know that chickens get worms red laying hens from the hen houses that are only raised for eggs can have plenty as when cleaning out the insides skinny worms come out of the intestines a lot, and I mean a lot clearly showing that the chickens aren't living in the cleanest environments but clearly they don't effect the chicken much as they are healthy but I saw about some kind of throat worm that gets in the throat and causes breathing to become restricted an can kill chickens I didn't take any notice to this at all though. I will be adding the DE to the feed to help with any kind of worm and keeping an eye on them.
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