Well, it’s our first death on our little urban farm. The Brown Hen died. I found her this morning, it appeared that she died in her sleep – or at least while on the roost. She was laying on the floor of the coop looking very much like she had just keeled over and fallen off the roost.
We’re not sure what happened to her. We do have a raccoon that hassles the hens sometimes (it can’t get in, though), and it’s possible that he literally scared her to death last night – chickens can actually die of fright. She could have been having trouble dealing with the heat.
It’s kind of a running joke that my hens are stupid – they really are dumber than your average hen, and your average hen is not exactly smart. So we considered the possibility that she just hadn’t been drinking enough. But I think Brown Hen was the smartest of the three, and would have done her best to take care of herself. The other two I do worry about – if I find a nice juicy worm, for example, they’re much more likely to run away from it or just ignore it than to eat it.
I also discovered earlier this week that some of their food had started to grow mold – apparently, some rain got blown into the food bucket and then with the heat, it just grew mold. (I usually use crumbles, which tend to clump up like kitty litter if they get some damp spots from rain, but I tried pellets this time around, and they did not appear to me to be wet whenever I looked in.) I dumped that stuff out and cleaned out their food bucket with bleach as soon as I noticed, and it didn’t appear that they’d eaten any – I’d been giving them PLENTY of kitchen scraps, which they strongly prefer. But it’s possible she was eating some moldy feed and that did her in. (I think this is the most likely scenario.)
It’s also possible she had parasites of some sort. I took the precaution of shooing the other two hens out of the house and scrubbing down the entire house with bleach, then leaving it to air dry for a while today. I’ve just put clean bedding back in the house and let the girls back in. Once it cools down a bit, we’ll move the coop again to give them some fresh grass and get them away from the area where they are now – just as a precaution.
Well, we’ve taken her out to a friend’s (rural) farm to be disposed of, and the remaining two girls seem a little sad today. (OK, The White Hen seems sad. The Brown Hen was The White Hen’s caretaker, since The White Hen is dumber than a box of rocks. The Black Hen doesn’t seem to care. She’s kind of a b*tch.)