My Tiny Brood of Backyard Chooks

chooks, hens or chickens?

Did red mites kill my chicken?



This has been a very traumatic week.

This is a picture of my partridge wyandotte bantam, Hannah Hen. This is her, when she first chose us to  live with. She has been with us for approximately nine months and we worked out after finding out where she came from that she is quite an old bantam.

Hannah Hen has hatched five beautiful babies for us and looked after them until they were ten weeks old before she decided they were big enough to make their own way in the world. The same day she abandoned her chicks, she laid her first little green egg since being broody.

A week ago (three weeks after she abandoned her chicks), Hannah Hen decided it was time to hatch some more babies. So she started sitting on a golf ball and two of her eggs which she managed to hide from me.

Oh no. Not again. Not so soon. I still have a batch of teenage chicks living in the coop (without the ramp) that Hannah Hen would need for new chicks. I don’t want to move the teenagers into the coop with the big girls because Helen Hen is mean to them.  I don’t want to sell my teenagers yet because I want to watch them grow into fine adults. Perhaps I could get out my original smaller coop for the teenagers (they’re only small) and then Hannah Hen could have her maternity ward back.

Then I had to quickly think about what breed of chicks do I want to have next time. I don’t have a rooster so I buy fertilised eggs, so therefore can select any breed of chick, depending on what eggs are available at the time.


So I decided to have her hatch some Barnevelders because they have such wonderful personalities and they are so pretty.

Hannah Hen had been happily sitting on her golf ball and her two little green eggs for about five days, so I thought it safe and arranged  to get some fertilised Barnevelder eggs on Sunday from the same breeder I got Helen and Hilda from. I had until the weekend to sort out the coop situation.

Then on Saturday morning around 7am, Hannah Hen got off her eggs and didn’t go back on them until midday. Very unusual, as once she is broody, she sits tight, hardly getting off for eating and ablutions. She was a bit puffed up and didn’t move far. I took the opportunity while she was off to check the nest for mites as I know they can force a broody hen off the nest.

I had had an outbreak of mites in the chick’s coop but had worked hard to get rid of them. I had not seen any mites in the big girl’s coop  as I had DE’d it as a mite preventative (I had forgotten to do the chick’s coop when I bought it) and so far the big coop had been mite free. But you never know, so I checked the nest. No sign of any mites, even under the eggs and golf ball.

I phoned the breeder to cancel the fertilised eggs for now as I think something is not quite right.

The next morning (Sunday) Hannah Hen again got off the nest at 7am but this time stayed off the eggs all day. She didn’t look well and was fluffed up and looking very lethargic for most of the day. She stood around and didn’t move far and at one stage I saw her standing with her little head bowed with her eyes closed. She did not look well at all. I decided that when she goes to bed that night, I would pick her up and check her over. I am not able to do that during the day as she won’t let me get too near her. I checked her nest again for mites, but nothing again. And none to be seen anywhere else in the coop.

Then in the afternoon she perked up and started looking her normal self. So that night I didn’t bother to check her out.

Monday morning we went to work in the dark and the chickens were still sleeping so I opened the door of their run so they can free range.
Monday night we were late home and the chickens were in bed and so I just shut the door.
Tuesday morning we left again in the dark before the chickens were up and opened the door.

Tuesday evening we were home at six. (The chickens bedtime at the moment is 8pm.) Hannah Hen was missing. How long has she been missing? I haven’t seen them since Sunday and she had been very poorly Sunday morning. I started to get worried. I checked in her nesting box in case she was sitting back on her golf ball. But she wasn’t there and to my horror, the nest and the golf ball were teeming with mites.

How could this happen? I had been so diligent in checking (or so I thought). I know that mites can kill chickens by causing anaemia. Then I remembered her little droopy head and her eyes closing while she was standing up. I remembered that she was lethargic. Why didn’t I see the signs and rifle through the nest, lifting up the wood shavings and hunting those mites out? How could my inexperience at chicken management cause the death of my Hannah Hen? She had lived for years across the road on the farm on her own and I took her in to keep her safe. How could I do that to her?

She didn’t turn up that night. I cried. I felt so bad and so sad.

I went to work the next day and was very sad but I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone. Not even my kids. If I had even a hint of sympathy, I would have burst into a fresh set of tears, so I told no one.  I will tell them once I have worked through what I have done.

Wednesday evening we came home and I was sadly and lethargically going about my business of preparing dinner. I asked my husband if he would go outside and look through the bush for Hannah Hen’s body so we could bury her.

Then a few minutes later, my husband called out to me, “Hey, Hannah is outside!” I looked out the window and there she was, looking bright and perky  doing the evening pre bedtime preening with the rest of them. Not long after this, she wandered off into the bushes for the night. The mites had driven off her nest and out of her coop.

The night I discovered the mites, I sprayed and DE’d  and sprayed and DE’d some more like a mad woman. But this weekend my plan is to empty the coop of wood shavings, spray it with Poultry Shield, let it dry, dust it with DE, put in fresh shavings and one day soon, try to encourage Hannah Hen back into her nest. I have a few plans for how to do this. But first I need to find where she is sleeping.

20 thoughts on “Did red mites kill my chicken?

  1. oh no oh no oh no – come on Hannah, you can beat this! I hope all your chooks fight back against the mites are are strong and healthy soon.

  2. Thank goodness she is okay. I’m glad you posted about your experience. I’ll be checking my henhouse today, shavings, nest boxes and all. I can only imagine your sadness. It’s such a learning process and you are a wonderful keeper! Best regards!

  3. That’s it!!! From now on I will be reading the end of your post first, I can’t take the emotional ride anymore.
    But, it did have a good ending. And a word of caution for us chicken people.

  4. Phew! I am SO glad Hannah is alright. What a traumatic week indeed! I will have to do some research on mites….very scary indeed. Thanks for sharing. Patti

  5. Oh, my! You are such an incredible writer…you had me almost in tears, until I read the end where Hannah was still alive, and then I was not sure if I read it right, and had to go back and reread it. I think the title made me feel that there was a very sad ending to this story, but the ending was good, and I am now sighing a big sigh of relief and so happy that Hannah Hen is still alive. 🙂

  6. Thanks for your story. It is so hard when you don’t know what has happened to one of the hens. We have had a couple similar stories, some turing out good like this one, and some so good. I am so happy that you found her. What a good chicken mom you are!

  7. Whew! You had me hanging there. I was so sad for you and for Hannah I almost couldn’t believe she was back in the end. I’m so glad she is ok. I hope you are able to get the mites under control and don’t have to deal with this again. I’m sure it was so stressful on you!

  8. I am so happy that you found her alive! 🙂

  9. Sheesh! You totally scared me! I thought she was dead too! I’m so glad she is OK. Good luck with the mites!

  10. I am so glad she turned up and seems fine. We’ve never had mites, but we did lose a hen to being egg bound and it was a sad experience and we have since learned how to help an egg bound chicken. You live and learn.

  11. Well I though she’d died too from your title! Horrible things red mites. I had them once and sprayed the house with insect spray – worked the first time luckily. Glad you still have your Hannah Hen!

  12. Glad that mystery is solved! I am so glad she is ok!

  13. BITCH! How could you DO this to me!!!!!
    :-/. 🙂
    I can’t cope with the idea that Te Radar’s chook,is unwell.

  14. Pingback: I found where Hannah Hen is spending the nights | My Tiny Brood of Backyard Chooks

  15. Thank you to everyone for your caring comments. Sorry to scare you all but I wanted to describe it in chronological order so you could share in my experience, including some of the pain. 🙂

  16. Pingback: To sell or not to sell the chicks | My Tiny Brood of Backyard Chooks

  17. Pingback: Hannah Hen is back sleeping in her coop and not outside in the trees | My Tiny Brood of Backyard Chooks

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