I've lost chickens to predators, sure, and I've lost 'em to Marek's (a sudden paralysis that they're typically vaccinated for as chicks). But this morning is the first time I've opened up the chicken barn to let everyone out for the day, and found a seemingly healthy 4-month-old bird dead on the floor.
Its head had a big, bloody wound on it, but I'm 90% sure that was post-mortem, as the rest of the chickens woke up. If one pecked and drew a spot of blood, the rest of them wouldn't be able to resist the incongruous red dot, and they'd all peck away. Chickens aren't known for their brains.
Anyway, as I say I saw no sign of disease, there are no poisons of any sort anywhere around, and it's too chilly for rattlesnakes. I don't know what the heck happened, but I'll need to keep an eye on the others.
Last weekend I installed new lay boxes in a seperate shed for them, as I expect the older birds will start laying in December. The "replacements" I got when the coons took 3 chicks a month or so ago won't lay until March or so.
This weekend I'm gonna take a nearby friend up on his offer for a free rooster. I want to have one around; next spring I'd like to incubate a fresh batch of chicks. Given the churn rate with chickens, you've gotta keep new ones coming!