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Dispatching a Chicken

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by TazGal, Oct 17, 2016.

  1. TazGal

    TazGal In the Brooder

    Mar 19, 2016
    So our first year (less than a year actually) of chicken keeping has thrown a lot of things at us. I started with 5 hens and now have 2. But the loss I had yesterday was the hardest of all.

    Because I am in the process of rebuilding the chicken run from a temporary one into a proper permanent one that can be closed in over the winter, the chickens have once again been free ranging for a few hours at a time. I had put a flimsy temporary pen up but severe stormy weather a few days back demolished it. We were entertaining guests for dinner and after dinner I went to get everyone in the coop. Only our newly acquired rooster was in the coop already on his own. After searching we found one hen hiding under a trailer near the coop and that's when I knew this wasn't going to be a good situation. We then found a mountain of feathers and nearby a hen badly injured. She was still alive, alert and able to stand but all the skin and flesh was gone from her back right down to the bones. I suspect a hawk tried to make off with her. Clearly she needed to be put out of her misery as this was way too severe to attempt to mend. However, being new to this chicken keeping thing I was stymied how to go about this the right way. I care about my birds like they were pets and just an hour previous she was squatting for me wanting to be petted. Now I had to look her in the eye, say 'sorry sweetie' and end this poor thing's suffering.

    One of the guests whose neighbour has chickens said I had to wring her neck. So I screwed up the courage, held on to my heart and put my all in to doing it quick and done. She went limp. And then...oh frig...she's still breathing. After that it got ugly and ended finally with a dull axe. By the time I was done I wanted to puke from the stress of it all. I was so traumatized I couldn't even cry until hours later. What was supposed to be a quick and humane end to me seemed like a bungled mess that only prolonged her suffering...and mine. Albeit only by a few minutes but still....not what I wanted to happen. And wow...2 or 3 minutes can seem like hours in a situation like that. And it all happened in the midst of upset, panic, and kicking myself for not having gone out to get them just a half hour sooner. It wasn't dark yet or anything but still...an hour previous all was well. If only I had taken them in then. A bright spot was that as I was closing the coop door the other hen showed up. Not sure where she had hidden herself but since I'd resigned myself that since she was missing the hawk took her. I was relieved to see her come home unharmed.

    I'm still feeling horrid today. And now that the shock of what I had to do is wearing off, the tears are coming. Although I hope I never have to be in this position again, perhaps it would be helpful to know from others, the humanest way to dispatch an injured bird quickly. Just in case. :(

  2. redsoxs

    redsoxs Crowing

    Jul 17, 2011
    North Central Kansas
    Wow! Sounds horribly traumatic. I think you did the right thing in terms of dispatching her as that looked like the most humane thing to do in her condition. I have never been an advocate of wringing the neck. I think it causes a pretty good amount of distress for the birds in the final few moments. Plus, it's none too comforting for the person doing the wringing, as you've shown. And if it's done wrong then you have a bigger mess on your hands. Actually the axe (dull or otherwise) isn't a bad option in terms of it's quickness. Even a dull one breaks the spine even if it doesn't sever the head, and death is instantaneous. I know there are advocates of slicing the carotid arteries of chickens they intend to dispatch. I have always struggled with this - letting a chicken "bleed out," while unquestionably effective, seems to have the ability to go wrong and then you have a flopping, bloody chicken. I will say that most of the times I've heard about that method is when folks are dispatching for eating purposes - not for putting one out of its misery as in your case. And that indeed may be less traumatic for the owner than bringing the axe down or neck wringing. I use the axe but then hold the bird down to minimize the flopping. I know the bird is dead but it still bothers me to see it bouncing and flopping all over the yard. But all together it is always a tough thing to do - even when it has to be done for reasons of putting down an injured bird. When they are like your pets there is no "right" way to do it. But in my opinion, there are some wrong ways - for me at least - to do it. Hang in there. [​IMG]

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