Manual cervical dislocation, easier than expected

impr3

Chirping
Sep 26, 2020
67
144
73
Lake County, CA
I killed my first two chickens this weekend using manual cervical dislocation and found it extremely easy and relatively foolproof. As I was researching, something that I would have loved to read but couldn't find was input from people who are new to this method. The descriptions from folks that have been doing it for years were great, but still left me feeling anxious that this might require a level of skill that I don't yet have and can't really get from just reading/youtube... So, I wanted to share a little about the experience, as well as the resources I used for direction, as a reference for anyone else who is considering this method and feeling a little daunted (like I was a few days ago).

First off, why cervical dislocation? Mostly because it's the method most veterinarians (including my mother) recommend as most humane. Given Mum used to chair the UK government's advisory committee on farm animal welfare, I figure it's a topic I should listen to her on... For another vet's perspective, see this article: https://the-chicken-chick.com/how-to-humanely-euthanize-chicken-by-dr/. It also *feels* more humane to me. Rather than fiddling with a kill cone or broomstick, I can put out a tray of their favorite food for distraction and have them picked up and dead before they realize their beaks aren't buried in fermented grain anymore. I know a lot of people on here like the broomstick method, but it terrifies me as I'm not sure how I'd know that I've applied the right amount of pressure and pull. With my hands, I can feel it. Your mileage may vary, this just feels right to me.

Ok, so what about the method? I found the best description was actually in the article by Mike the chicken vet which I linked to above. The part that most helped me to understand the process is where he clarifies that you are not breaking the neck, you are separating it. Having the head bent back at a 90 degree angle makes the separation easier, but it is the actual pulling which breaks the spinal cord. I used the hold where the chicken's head was between my pointer and middle fingers, leaving the thumb and ring finger free to tilt the head back by pulling up under the beak. This also helped limit my reflex to grasp tightly around the neck as I might have if it was between my thumb and pointer finger (the goal is not to strangle the bird).

In the end, both birds died quickly and calmly without the other chickens even looking up from their dinner. I did have a little issue with not pulling hard enough on the first bird but realised immediately and pulled again after which I felt a very clear pop of separation. Even with that false start, the whole process from catch to kill probably took less that 5 seconds. Afterwards, I immediately felt the neck to confirm separation (there's a clear gap between the head and the spine) and then hung them up by a slip knot around the feet and cut the head off for them to bleed out. As with any method of killing a chicken, they did flap around a fair bit after death, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Overall, I found manual cervical dislocation to be a very humane and simple approach to killing chickens which requires very little skill. My earlier fear about messing it up definitely feels unwarranted. For reference, they were both 3.5 month old cockerels. The separation required surprisingly little force so even if an older bird requires a slightly stronger pull, I don't expect it would be an issue.

What have y'all's experiences been with manual cervical dislocation? Any good resources that you can share with folks just starting out?
 

Cinnamon Roll

Songster
Premium Feather Member
Aug 14, 2020
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Cheyenne, WY
I have only used the broomstick method myself. I was worried that I might mess up a cervical dislocation by hand but reading your experience might give me the confidence to try it next time I have to cull a bird. Thank you so much for the information!
 

impr3

Chirping
Sep 26, 2020
67
144
73
Lake County, CA
I have only used the broomstick method myself. I was worried that I might mess up a cervical dislocation by hand but reading your experience might give me the confidence to try it next time I have to cull a bird. Thank you so much for the information!

It's funny how different things worry different people. I had a shovel all ready to try the broomstick method if manual dislocation didn't work, but I was terrified of actually needing to use it since the broomstick method seems so complicated to me. I also had a slipknot hanging from a branch with a very sharp knife as an additional backup, but that also felt scary to me.

Yep, I had three methods all prepared and ready to go. There was no way I was going to end up with an injured-but-not-quite-dead chicken...
 

3KillerBs

Crossing the Road
11 Years
Jul 10, 2009
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I've thought about using the manual method but as I have arthritis in my wrists and the base of my thumbs that is getting progressively worse so I'm concerned that I would not be able to do it physically.

I didn't find the broomstick complicated. I did use a spare ax handle instead of an actual broomstick because the flatter profile makes it easier to keep it firmly under my feet.
 

Curnow

Songster
5 Years
Mar 27, 2015
276
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Breckenridge, Missouri
I too use the broomstick method. Actually,, I use a hoe. I was terrified in the beginning, but find it a very quick easy death now. I can clearly feel the quick separation. Like you all, I then hang and cut off head and bleed out.

I think cervical dislocation (however you do it) does seem the most humane.
I just don't use my hands because they are small and I worry about strength, even though I know it doesn't take much if a pull.
 

nuthatched

It's C-O-O-P, not C-O-U-P-E!
Premium Feather Member
Nov 9, 2019
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We've always just used a hatchet since it's certain, I'd be uneasy using a method that I could get wrong. I'll look into this method if it's simple enough.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
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Nov 27, 2012
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For reference, they were both 3.5 month old cockerels.
Thats' pretty small bird. Have you tried it on a bird older than a year?

I know a lot of people on here like the broomstick method, but it terrifies me as I'm not sure how I'd know that I've applied the right amount of pressure and pull.
You can feel it go, and hear it.


I've thought about using the manual method but as I have arthritis in my wrists and the base of my thumbs that is getting progressively worse so I'm concerned that I would not be able to do it physically.

I didn't find the broomstick complicated. I did use a spare ax handle instead of an actual broomstick because the flatter profile makes it easier to keep it firmly under my feet.
Ditto Dat!

I only found one, out of dozens, of broomstick vids that didn't rip the head right off the bird.

Cervical Dislocation is shown in this video at about 1:00,
Click the 'Watch this video on YouTube'
it's the only CD video I've found that doesn't remove the head.

-Notice the slight divot in the ground under the stick and neck, this will keep the bird from being choked.

-Notice that she slowly stretches out the neck and legs before giving the short sharp jerk that breaks the neck close to the skull, this is key to success IMO.

I've found this technique to be very effective.
 

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