Chickens & Euthanasia

By Chicken Girl1 · Mar 23, 2018 · ·
  1. Chicken Girl1
    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.

    Cervical dislocation:

    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.

    Gas method:

    There are several different gassing methods, but I will link you to a specific article showing one way to go about it:

    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.

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    About Author

    Chicken Girl1
    A chicken girl raising her flock of hens on 10 acres, with lots of woods and privacy.

Recent User Reviews

  1. carolwfuller
    "another way"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Jun 15, 2018
    Good article on a tough subject. I had a chicken who bloated. After reading through BYC last year I did the following: picked her up carefully (she was suffering) bathed her in warm water briefly, wrapped her in a nice towel, gave her a kiss and placed her on her back. After about 2 seconds she was gone.


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  1. FlyWheel
    I'm dubious about the "humanity" of many of these methods, especially the physical ones like beheading. The reason being that the brain does not instantly die after the rest of the body is killed or detached; doing so only deprives it of oxygen by interrupting it's supply of blood. So essentially the bird can still suffer until actual brain death occurs, which can take minutes after it's oxygen supply is interrupted, all the while it will be receiving pain signals from the damaged area/severed nerves. This is why physical forms of executions are no longer used on humans.

    The only way I could see that would prevent any possible post mortem suffering using physical means would be killing it by actually destroying the brain. A head shot, for example. Or using an odorless anesthetic gas, putting it to sleep.
    1. Tesumph
      While those would hurt the least, it’s not exactly practical on a large scale processing operation or typical farm work. For a beloved pet, for sure. But to an extent, any way they go will cause some degree of stress or pain just before death, except maybe a totally unexpected gunshot to the head.
  2. Abriana
    I couldn’t ever use any of these methods. I’m way too attached. As the person below says, I would take mine to a vet. Great article tho, all humane methods that keep the bird’s comfort in mind. Great job!
      DucksOhio and Chicken Girl1 like this.
    1. DucksOhio
      I agree with you. I’d go to the vet.
      VeganGal likes this.
  3. basement chick
    For some, like me, I just can't do any of these. I h ave had just a few chickens for eggs for me and my husband and I love them as pets. I have taken two to a veterinarian and have them put down. I know this is an expense but better than letting them suffer, right?
      VeganGal and Chicken Girl1 like this.
    1. path.otto
      I think it's good to know what you are capable of and having a contingency plan. Nothing wrong with having a vet euthanize your pet chickens.
    2. ChickenyChickeny
      I would do that to... I couldn't kill any of my chickens
      VeganGal and basement chick like this.
  4. path.otto
    Thanks for writing this article! I know if I am going to have chickens I will be faced with this eventuality and I need to be the one, not my husband, as they are my girls.
      Chicken Girl1 likes this.
  5. peterlund
    If i may....if you are faced with a "first time" need to dispatch a bird.... bring in a seasoned friend... be sure your bird has no head and you still have all your fingers when the dust settles...
    1. Chicken Girl1
      great advice, thanks for posting!
  6. alexa009
    Good article!:thumbsup The shooting method is probably the first I would do. I couldn't be too close to the chicken when killing it.
      Phoebus and Chicken Girl1 like this.
  7. Tesumph
    You forgot cutting the throat. We put them in an upside down traffic cone with a notch cut out and slice deeply just under the jaw.
    1. Chicken Girl1
      Yes, I was going to put that in but didn't get around to it. Once I research it thoroughly I would like to to add it. Thank you!
      Tesumph likes this.
    2. Little Jerry Seinfeld
      I agree. This needs to be in the article when they can. I find that a sharp knife is easiest and quickest, I hold mine in my arms, not a cone, because they are tame and I think it comforts them.
      Chicken Girl1 likes this.
  8. duluthralphie
    Good article, You hit the reasons to do the nasty deed.

    You are so right on doing the one that works best for you. None of them are fun. I have been using a PVC cutter on the birds I want to eat, less chance of losing a finger or hand than with an axe.
  9. marygreene
    Good article. I like the frogs and am grateful for them assisting you.
      Chicken Girl1 likes this.
    1. Chicken Girl1
      I thought @duluthralphie's article was extremely well written and I couldn't have done better on the gassing method. His frogs were rather helpful ;).
  10. Dayrel
    Thanks for writing about a tough, but necessary subject.

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