One morning last week, I had said goodbye to my family, and as usual went to feed my chickens. They were excited to see me except for one, which was lying on its back with its feet up in the air, motionless and stiff. My medical training helped me diagnose death, and after I recovered from the initial shock, I had to consider the aetiology. Unfortunately, a few days earlier, I had found some tunnelling into the chicken shed and eggs had gone missing. I thought this was most likely to be rats. Can rats kill chickens? I was able to clarify the position later in the day, from a patient who was a poultry farmer, who informed me that rats do not kill chickens, but only baby chicks and that it was common for chickens at the age of nine months to suffer from sudden death.
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