One of the cons of backyard chicken keeping is being faced with the decision to euthanize your animal. As a first time chicken keeper or an oldie, who hasn’t crossed this bridge, you will have a couple of questions on the subject. When should I euthanize a bird? How should I go about it? Both these questions will be answered, hopefully aiding you in this tough situation.
First off what is euthanasia?
Definition of euthanasia: the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.
When should I euthanize a chicken?
- If a bird is in serious pain from an illness and there is no hope of recovery.
- If a bird is unable to live a good quality of life due to injuries.
- If a bird has a contagious disease which threatens the livelihood of your flock.
- Excess roosters unable to find a home causing stress to hens or humans. (Granted this last criteria does not fall under the true definition of euthanasia)
How should I euthanize a chicken?
Although different opinions vary on what is the most “humane” way to euthanize a bird below is listed the commonly used ways and how to perform them.
Ax and Stump:
For this method you will need a very sharp ax or hatchet, a chopping block of some sort, and a bucket. It is a good idea somtimes to practice on some inert object beforehand. Once you are confident with your aim and strength of swing you can get your bird. Hold the bird down with your left hand or have someone hold it for you. Get the bird's neck as flat on the block as possible (some hammer two nails into the stump to place the head in between to keep it in place). Strike hard and clean, if you miss don’t freak out or run away, keep control of yourself and do it again. Be prepared for the bird to spasm, it isn’t alive just reflex. At this time you can place it into the bucket until it subsides.
The Broomstick method:
What you’ll need is a broomstick or pole of some sort which won’t break under pressure. Place the bird on solid ground between your feet while holding the legs. Lay the broomstick behind the chicken’s head. Step down on the broomstick while simultaneously pulling up the chicken’s legs to snap the neck. Be sure to force into it so it actually breaks the connection of head to spine. If you pull to hard the head can come off. Watching a video online or an experienced person demonstrate it for you first is best.
This accomplishes the same goal as the broomstick method but with a more hands on approach. You must hold the bird's legs in one hand and it's head in the other, with your thumb wrapping around the bird's throat at the base of the jaw and your fingers coming up to wrap around the top of the head and meet you thumb. Tilt the head slightly upwards and back, so the beak is toward the sky, and then yank your arms in opposite directions as quickly and as hard as you can. If unsure please watch an experienced person demonstrate for you or watch a video.
I found this method best for birds that are unable to move or hurt to be handled. If you are familiar with guns or know someone who is shooting at the head will cause instant death. You can use a gun (like a .22) or a strong pellet gun.
There are several different gassing methods, but I will link you to a specific article showing one way to go about it: https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/the-chicken-worlds-worst-chore-culling-the-injured-and-sick-babies.72140/
The most humane way is the best way you can carry out. Some maybe squeamish about the broomstick or cervical dislocation methods, while others still with the axe and the cone. Choose a way that you have the most confidence in completing without causing extra pain to your bird.
Thank you to all the helpful BYC members for their discussions and sharing of their knowledge on this subject.
Further recommended reading: Topic of the Week - Let's talk about euthanasia