mysterious chicken death
I have a few questions about my backyard flock. I had a mystery death with one of our chickens. She showed no signs of illness that I could tell and one day was just dead in the coop. Then we ended up fostering a friend's chicken for a few days, and it turned out to be seriously under weight and not from a lack of access to food. Currently we are down to two chickens in our flock, and we are looking to get more chickens. My concern is that we may have some sort of illness or disease that we would expose the new chickens to. Our current hens are about 4 years old and are not laying, but we do not want to cull them. Do you have any suggestions? Is there any means of testing our current chickens or inoculating the new ones?
Denver County Colorado
First of all, any time you have a death in your flock you should contact a poultry veterinarian and have the bird tested for a proper diagnosis. Without a proper diagnosis, you are just guessing as to what you are dealing with.
Second, you need to practice good biosecurity to protect your flock. This site has some great information: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/birdbiosecurity/. Never expose an established flock of poultry to any other poultry from an outside source. Also, practice all in, all out with your flocks. This means moving out all old birds and doing a proper cleaning and disinfection of your coops and equipment prior to getting any new birds. Old birds can be carriers of disease and parasites and should not be kept if you are starting a new flock.
Once birds reach 4 years of age, you will see a number of reasons for sudden death.
For closed flocks, you should not need to vaccinate unless you have seen a specific problem in the past. Marek's disease, Newcastle disease, and pox are the main diseases that come to mind if you have had an issue in the past.