Never count your chickens... Not even after they've hatched.
Just on sunset, I lost a light sussex in the weirdest way. I took them all a snack but daylight had faded early, and both the light sussex had already gone to roost.
Thinking there was still enough light, I called them out and put a little bit of food on the ledge just below their hatchway. It turns out this was a deadly thing to do!
Trying to get to it first, the two birds went for the hatchway at the same time. The little bloke fell backwards into the shed while the larger one came outside. I wasn't too worried as the hatchway itself is only about 40cm above the floor — it's not a long way to fall, and I seem to remember that chickens have wings.
About minute later he still hadn't emerged, so I went in and had a look — he was up on the roost heading for the hatchway, and seemed fine. Then he came outside, climbed down the ramp into the pen and went over to the feeder to get his share. A few seconds later he stepped back from the feeder and fell over, spasmed a few times, went very pale and died.
Just like that — gone. I don't even know what to make of it! I've had several breeds including heavy ones, but have never lost a bird to a minor fall. But somehow the jolt must have ruptured something, perhaps his heart or liver. I won't know because it was too dark to do a post mortem, and frankly the last thing I wanted to do was cut the poor fellow open.
So there we have it — sudden sussex death syndrome. His brother will be a bit lonely now — and he's the one with odd wingtips, so not a great breeding prospect.
Quite an odd and unsettling day!