Do chickens feel pain?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by chicknjane, Nov 14, 2009.

  1. chicknjane

    chicknjane Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 2, 2009
    Pine Grove, PA
    Reason for question. I've seen a thread on here where a BYCer threw a towel over her chickens head and performed surgery to fix an impacted crop. I've seen another thread where a BYCer sutured an open wound on her chicken. Both times I wondered, what about anagesics for pain? Maybe chickens don't feel pain.

    But then I recall, I've seen posts in which people recommend culling the chicken to put the poor thing out of its misery.

    So, I'm confused. Do chickens feel pain or don't they? If they do, which I assume they do, how do I decide when to cull and when to attempt to save them? Does the towel over the head act like anasthesia or do they just lay there feeling every little bit of pain to paralyzed to do anything? I know that I will eventually have to make the decision to either cull or attempt to save one of my pets and would rather not wait until then to be looking for answers to these questions.

    I don't want to start a philosophical debate or ruffle any feathers with this post. I tried to find an authoritative response online, but wasn't successful and nothing came up on point in a search of the threads on here, although I did see someone write that chickens don't feel pain like other animals do. So I am posting this question to the members of BYC in the hopes of getting a more specific response.

    Thank you.
  2. Jody

    Jody Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 8, 2009
    Epping, NH
    I think all living creatures feel pain.
  3. Yankeechick58

    Yankeechick58 New Egg

    Nov 8, 2009
    Yes, chickens feel pain. They have a brain and central nervous system just like we do. Birds are like people, some react differently to pain than others...some folks scream bloody murder and some will lie quietly not saying a word. Sometimes when a chicken is hurt and they go into shock it's miconstrued as them not feeling any pain.

    Putting a towel over the head of an animal is to put it in the dark and therefore keep it quiet. It doesnt keep the pain away, it just keeps the animal from struggling. Cutting into an animal without anesthesia is cruel in my opinion. It's one thing to lance a boil, but surgery should be done by a vet.

    Just my opinion of course.
  4. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    They do feel pain. Bumble foot, impacted egg, and chips in their beak result in a uncomfortable bird. Performing surgery does cause pain on them, but because they are low on the food chain, they often don't show outwards pain as part of their mechanism to stay alive. One reason that chickens "drop dead" is because they fight long and hard to "look healthy" so they don't look as good of a meal.
  5. FarmerChick

    FarmerChick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2008
    North Carolina
    Yes they feel pain.
    Just like you and me.

    Towel over the head does a few things---helps restrain the animal, helps keep it a "tad" calmer, and helps the person not look at the face.

    Only normal pain should be allowed. I can handle stitching up my own small cuts if needed, I can handle that pain.
    Surgery type, cutting and all that, nope.

    So in general, think pain level. What pain must be endured for small situations and what you can endure on your pain level......then judge that on anything else that feels pain.

    best I can do for my judgement on when to vet yourself or call a vet.
  6. highcountrychickens

    highcountrychickens Head Rooster Jouster

    Aug 28, 2008
    Jackson Hole
    Interesting question, Chickenjane - and welp... however you light it, it is philosophical at it's core, and the simplest truth is that when you're faced with a situation where you have an injured or sick bird, only then will you truly know your own answer... what's worse is that each situation will merit it's own answer. That's part of the character dance of caring for and keeping animals. The cull or care meter really finds it's standard in the individual.
    As for pain? From a purely scientific front, I doubt that the receptor nerves are much different in a chicken than they are in any animal. However, there is a protective shock response that I do believe dulls their awareness when in a stressful or mortal situation. Throwing a towel over them probably induces that, as well as the pragmatic necessity of restraining the bird for a safer, quick procedure. I don't think there's any question that they suffer with illness or injury, but I don't think pain is something they "dwell on" - that is a human mechanism. I think each bird responds to it, making them still for a recovery, and when it's done, it's done.

    The trick is knowing when and when not to inject your human values for the sake of the bird - both in culling and caring.

    Good and important stuff to think about now though

    *edit: Farmerchick's advice about calling your vet is really great too -
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2009
  7. HEChicken

    HEChicken Overrun With Chickens

    Aug 12, 2009
    BuCo, KS
    My Coop
    I know the post you mentioned, where the bird was operated on with just a towel over its head. To be honest, I was horrified at the cruelty. To cut into and then stitch up an animal without using a local anesthetic is not justifiable in my opinion. And yes I know that on farms across the country, animals have horns and testicles removed all the time without anesthetic - it doesn't make it right. I worked for a large animal vet clinic several years ago but never could get over the procedures that were done to animals without pain relief. I just wish the doctors of some of the people performing these procedures would offer to perform their next procedure or surgery without offering anesthetic - I bet the same people who do this to animals every day would not consent to having the same thing done to themselves without the pain relief.
  8. Uppity Peon

    Uppity Peon Chillin' With My Peeps

    I think the pain of minor surgery or stitches would me much less than the pain of a bad infection or slow death from an impacted crop. So if you were to decide to treat them yourself without anesthetics, I would not be critical. Not all of us can afford to get a vet to do these things.
  9. LizzyJo

    LizzyJo Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 27, 2009
    Aptos CA
    When I first saw the question I got angry. I'm glad you explained the thinking behind your question and explained it so well. Now I have to go and calm down. Your question was honest and well thought out and gives the rest of us a chance to speak up about farm-yard operations.
  10. muttly

    muttly Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 7, 2009
    wasatch mtns.
    Chickens are very stoic, like a dog or Professional Bull Rider to show pain is to show weakness, not good when somebody wants your spot.[​IMG]

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