I got a distraught call from LeFemme yesterday morning. She had found Mrs. Brown, a Barnvelder hen, dead and still warm when she let the chickens out.
A few months ago we lost a Buff to a bird of prey. This at least had a clear cause. After a brief fantasy of installing anti-aircraft guns on the shed roof I simmered down and kept in mind Nature’s cycle. Chickens are food, to us and other creatures after all. We’ve since begun construction on predator secure accommodations for our flock so they will be safe on the weekends we needed to work on the new farm.
Mrs. Brown’s demise was something altogether different. It might be a shortcoming of our husbandry skills, or something far worse. Any number of diseases could wipe out our dwindling flock, and the Chicken Health Book and Internet are full of tales of woe.
After I got home from work and ate dinner I grabbed a mask and gloves and took her into the garage for a post mortem. She was generally in good condition having good muscle tone and no excessive fat. Her eyes were a normal color, she had no mites or external parasites, but her vent was dark and there was some pasting around it. Her egg was pressing out and after cutting it open I found the walls of her vent to be red and flaccid. Intestines, heart and kidneys seemed normal. Her liver wasn’t what I expected though. No spots outside, but it was dark I suspect from not being bled out, and where it attached to the other organs it was darker and had small dark nodules. Her crop had a lot of grain and some water from the previous night, and though her gizzard seemed small and had some extra muscle like a small hernia on one side, it had grit and food in there and neither the crop or opened gizzard smelled sour or bad.
There was a lot of moisture in her internal cavity, but not alarmingly so.
I spent about an hour poring over books and searching the web and found nothing that matched. My feeling was that she had been egg bound, and maybe torn something or gotten toxic shock, but there wasn’t a second egg behind the one I found.
I buried her around 10:00p and was glad to be done with the business, but wished I had something conclusive. All we can do is keep things clean and keep an eye on the girls.