x3 on Oldhenslikedogs and FridayYet, and friendly nod out to lovemy6hens.
It really is your mindset and what you are comfortable with. Decide where you want to be, and be that no matter what other folks say or think.
As for me, I enjoy my chickens, even give most of them names, take the best care I can of them, but I honestly raise them for the eggs, and a fun hobby farm.
I grew up in ranching country...my daddy was a cowboy, horse shoer and gentleman rancher. My grandma owned a chicken farm....so I've got Ag thinking in my blood (all that 4H as a kid). I still think of my chickens first as livestock...with a few as pets....but none I am willing to pay the $$$$ at the vet....seriously vet prices are so expensive now, even for dog shots (which I now do with farm store vaccines for pennies compared to the vet).
I live in semi-suburbs that is a mix of city and country. There's old type farmers, and local, sustainable, organic folk with backyard chickens, and those who keep chickens purely as pets with diapers in the house. Even in my relatively well vetted area, it is hard to find an avian vet, IF I were willing to take a bird to one....which honestly I am not. (I'm still paying off the $900 bill for the beloved family dog, sniff, sniff, which I still had to put down for cancer). Most vets won't or can't treat chickens, and there isn't a lot of science for chickens as they have traditionally been thought of as livestock...a lot of the answer is still farm products or culling.
I had the luxury of having my oldest daughter go through a lot of 4H science and become a Vet Tech, and I learned everything I could as she did so (we homeschooled and did 4H together). I therefore try to take care of my birds myself, and if I can't, I do choose to cull (spelled kill) them if they have an illness that is not treatable by me.
For personal reasons ( I have a bum shoulder that can't swing an axe, my city boy hubby will not be partner to any deed, and my vet-tech daughter has "selfishly" left me for her dream man and a farm in Tennesee), I have chosen to do the deed by a 5 gallon bucket, lid, and dry ice. The Veterinary Association designates CO2 as a humane way to dispose of animals, if done properly.
So, I nurse as best I can for those things that may recover and use the "orange bucket" for those that can't or for whom I know treatment is really futile. I agree that usually a bird is either well or is dead...there aren't too many things they recover from and live to squawk about it for any length of time, and most birds once their body systems are compromised become vectors of illness for the flock...they will be the ones that catch something that spreads to the whole flock that can wipe you out. The reputable breeders around here know it is best to cull than treat most things if you value your flock.
There are those who scream evil at the CO2 method, but the nasty research out there is for slowly raised levels in large arenas where whole flocks are dispersed through slow, painful suffocation because to create an immediate cloud would also eliminate all human workers on site. My method is similar to fire expulsion. I create a large cloud of CO2 by placing about 1/8 lb dry ice in the bottom of the bucket, add a styrofoam insert, pour warm water, place lid, let cloud build nice and big, then open lid, lower chicken, close lid (with a side to vent), wait until all fluttering is done...usually 30 to 40 seconds....wait another minute...appropriately dispose of body, with the garbage bag enclosure if you place one in the bucket first. No blood, no mess, easy disposal...and the added benefit that no disease pathogens were spread in the process.
I've done my research and am confident that with deep immersion CO2, the bird takes a gulp, becomes unconscious, then is dead within 30 seconds to a minute with post-mortem fluttering from involuntary muscular spasm. That honestly is almost as fast as the axe (immediate unconsciousness) and a lot less tramatic than slitting the throat and letting them bleed out (which takes several minutes).
Just what I've decided to do.
Edited by Lady of McCamley - 1/4/16 at 11:08pm