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Monday, July 23, 2012

Terror in Hen Pen

I was at the sink about 11:15, washing an iron skillet because I want scrambled eggs and have not eaten much today. I heard hen squawking, horrible and long sounds. I turned off the water to hear it again. I had to rush to the other end of the house, limping through 3 doors and 4 rooms to get to the big flashlight. Then, I rushed back and out the door, grabbing my lightweight hoe with the small, easily-wielded head.

You have no idea how fast my heart was beating as I rushed through the dew in sandals and a gown, not another stitch on, no protection for me at all. I approached warily, not wanting a bear raccoon to be angry at me and attack me. But, I had to see. Maybe I should bring them in if the perimeter of walls, floor, or sides had been breached.

Thelma was walking around, gently talking, but in a strident voice. Louise was standing in the top box where she and Thelma sleep. Pepper was flopping on the ground, off to one side. She did not look like she had much "flop" left in her. I warily made my way around the pen and could find no place a predator could have entered, no place where anything is ripped. Pepper moved even less.

Anxious to get out of mosquitoes that attacked my bare arms and legs, I made my way back to the house. My heart is pounding so, even now, that my head hurts on top. 

I am going to scramble my eggs, eat, get dressed, put on my headlamp, and go out for another look. There is no hope for Pepper. I want to get her body out before flies cover it and make me retch with the smell.

I don't know a single soul who would come here at midnight to get her out, except for exbf and he is an hour and a half away, and has to be at work at 6 am. So, that's out.  Tony is probably asleep. I cannot see lights on in the back of his house, and I don't want to drive around the block to see if anything else is alight.

Maybe I will bring Thelma and Louise into the house. If there is evidence on Pepper's body of an attack, I will! The trap will be set for tomorrow night, at any rate.

Just before dusk, when the other two came to the back door, Pepper was not with them. Usually, she is somewhere around. No, she was in the bottom box, the egg-laying box, just standing. Since Thelma laid an egg, I reached in to get it. Usually, Pepper runs wildly, squawking to avoid me, and flies out, whacking me in the face with her wildly flatting wings, the air blowing my hair back. But, she just stood there this evening/night. I petted her and she just made little sounds and did not try to avoid me. I wonder if she is ill and died.

This morning, she did not come near the food, but she does that sometimes, fearing--I supposed--that Louise would peck her. However, she had gotten over that. Lately, I have noticed a reluctance on her part to come to food right away. I chalked it up to the heat, renewed aggressiveness on the part of Louise, not illness. We will see.

No edits once again.

Monday, 6:30 am
I wentt out with clothing, boots, nitrile gloves, plastic bag, and trash can. Pepper was stiff and cold with no blood or marks on her. I am still shaking. That trash can goes to the road today, Monday, even though it will not be collected until Thursday morning. Yes, it looks pretty trashy to put cans out half a week. I don't care.

Black hens were outside the pen. They flew back home when I came out.

Your turn
Anyone willing and close enough to do dead hen removal tonight?


  1. It's awful isn't it. I feel for you, hope you are OK.

    I'm the one that has to bury most of our chooks if they die, it's not nice but understand that you would have trouble digging the grave.

    Bloody killers, wish they'd all go away.

    Take care.


  2. Barb,
    Once I figured out it was not a raccoon or any animal, I was sort of relieved. No, I cannot dig a hole for a hen. She is in the trash!

    The agony and nerves of last night was because I heard them in distress, and it was dark, and I was afraid.

    This morning, I only faced soooo many ants on her. I am not not as distressed as when Fancy died. I thought Pepper's change in habits was the heat. I was in shock for about four days after Fancy died. There is no problem this time. Thanks for being concerned.

    It's just Thelma and Louise now. It is time for another couple of hens, I think.

  3. Been a long time since I was that scared. What nerve to go look, except it was for your girls in distress.

    1. Joanne,
      Not only was I frightened, I was angry. However, not knowing what animal it was or could have been made me shake a I was pretty certain one hen was gone. About an hour ago, I looked over and the hoe was leaning against the sofa. I laughed at myself.

  4. Sounds like she was egg bound. They can make some pretty terrible sounds, be in big pain, and then they die. Egg bound is when an egg gets stuck somewhere in the egg tract. The chicken will sit, and sit and sit and try and lay. Usually happens after a few "fart eggs" or some extra large eggs, or with the "no shell" eggs. Egg binding happens to young chickens, and ones near the end of their egg laying careers.
    Sometimes they start being egg bound, weeks before, and have various issues, but manage to get the egg out. Other times it comes on suddenly. Usually once a chicken gets egg bound, even if you take steps to relieve it, they'll become egg bound again. Sadly it seems to be genetic, inherited. All the chicken sites tell how to unbind a chicken, extraordinary measures, as usually the chicken will just become egg bound again, and again, then end up with prolapse (yucka, where the egg laying parts droop out) and then die of infection. If an egg breaks inside the chicken, there is nothing you can do -- they get an infection and die, often in days. Poor poultry...and egg layers, in general. I'm so sorry for Pepper, but she had a fantastic life, absolutely fantastic. Lucky chicken to be owned by you.

  5. Raccoons work for Al Quaida, I'm sure of it.

  6. Meetsy,
    I thought her change in habits was just the heat and humidity. She had quit laying. Still, I thught it was just the heat.

    Hey, that is an idea, turn raccoons loose on Al Qaida! At least, it was not a raccoon that breached the security. I did not take this death so hard as I di Fancy's death.

  7. I have a few suggestions. It could be she picked up something from the interlopers you mentioned - your other two hens may have developed immunity. My instinct says however, it's most likely the heat.

    I'm not sure what temps you're getting, but I know when our temps go close to 38 Celcius, we have to take action - making sure they have clean, cold water and we hose the top of their coop with water. Because at around 40 degrees their organs start to cook. Chickens don't sweat, so they cannot cool themselves down.

    If pepper had the most feathers, or is a more heat sensitive breed, it's possible the heat could have slowed things down inside her. Then when she began to cool down during the night, it's possible her heart gave out?

    That would be my hunch. I always watch my chickens when we get a prediction of over 34 degrees Celcius. It's also important to keep a constant supply of clean, cold water up to them during excessive heat. They won't drink the hot stuff which results in dehydration and overheating.

    Sorry to hear about your loss. Excessive heat can kill chickens. In Australia at summertime, it's a common thing. :(

  8. Okay, 38 C=100.4 F

    The temperature here today was 98 F with heat index of over 100. She lived though actual 104F temps. The humidity was higher this time even though the temp was a bit lower. I considered the heat.

    I considered the black hens bringing disease.

    Their water in the metal waterer gets changed once a week. I often put ice cubes in water outside the back door. Plus, they have an outdoor bowl near the pen that I sometimes fill with cubes.

    Since they are out of the pen during the day, they can seek their own cool places. Often, I just find them sitting in a hole they have dug. They don't want to leave for food!Their pen receives no sun until late in the day. The front yard and one side yard is in shade all day, so that is where they stay mostly.

    Pepper is a different breed from the RIRs. Rir seem to cool themselves successfully by hanging/holding wings out from their body and panting.

    Since I have never touched her until the day she died, it is hard to say what was going on. When, I got her, I put the box in the pen and closed the door. The day she died, I was able to pet her because she was ill, I suppose. Thanks for the thoughts.

  9. Doubtful it was heat. I know that chickens cannot cool themselves, however wasn't there recently an egg laid with only a shell membrane, but no shell? Really does sound like an egg chute mechanical failure (not that she was a robot, but I couldn't think of other words). The lack of a shell is called a "rubber egg" (by the way). The reason for rubber eggs is because hens have a harder time producing adequate shell due to an imbalance in their calcium, phosphorous, vitamin D or magnesium levels . This has NOTHING to do with the food, but everything to do with the chicken's metabolism. Some chickens, as they age, have changes in their metabolism. Laying a rubber egg (or other egg error) occasionally isn't the issue, but it an lead to egg-binding in some birds. It can also lead to fragile shelled eggs, which break in the vent, and cause an infection. For future reference, watch out for lethargy, fever, appetite loss,walking upright (tail down), drippy vent..can all be symptoms of an egg problem. However, some chickens mask their distress very well, as it's a bird thing to never let anyone know you're ill, especially your predators. This wasn't a heat thing, I'm certain, since you recently talked about the rubber egg... I would guarantee this is NOT some mystery infection brought in by the "interlopers".

  10. I don't know. Louise was the one who laid the egg without the shell.It was Louise.

    Exbf saw Louise on the nest for a long time. Besides, Pepper was a banty, laying tiny eggs. He said it was a large egg. I questioned

    I am still not ruling out the black chickens since I don't like them.

    Pepper did not look well, but in this heat, none of them looked well at times.


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