Need help! Chicken in pain


5 Years
Sep 27, 2014
I have 8 free-range barred rock hens (around 3-4 years old). All of them have been very healthy, they would lay often and stay a good weight, but I had noticed that one of them seemed to be gaining weight. I didn't think much of it since she was acting fine. But as she gained weight, she became lethargic. Just these couple of days, she just sat in one spot, move to another if she needed, and sit there. I also noticed that for a couple of days, she would go into the coop early to sleep. Now today, my mom discovered that she had blood. Her stool and her vent were bloody. I think the vent was also prolapsed. She didn't want to move at all, and I could tell she was in a lot of pain. She was just sitting there and closing her eyes, and it broke my heart :'( .I separated her from the rest of the flock so she wouldn't be bothered by the hens.

First I want to know what this is, and if it's contagious or not. I assumed fatty liver disease, since it somewhat fits the description. She looks to be constantly straining, and she is also very obese. But the thing is, the other hens are perfectly fine. They are all free range and will graze on grass, they get chicken feed in the morning and evening, and vegetable scraps usually once in the evening. Another possibility is that she is egg-bound. I can't tell since I have 8 hens, and it's difficult to keep track of which hen has layed.

Second, how should she be euthanized? I know that at this point, treatment probably won't work, and I just want to end her suffering. What would be the humane and calmest way to euthanize a hen? I have heard of breaking their neck or decapitating them, but I can't bear to see that happen (my dad will probably do it) and I also fear that he might not get it right the first time, and the chicken is still conscious and suffering. Is there any chamber-type methods? I recall my dad had euthanized one of our pet rats using a container and some chemical, so I wonder if there's a similar method for hens.

Granny Hatchet

Tastes like chicken
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Sep 26, 2013
madison Indiana
She sounds egg bound for sure. maybe internal layer as her stomach squishy ? I am not able to help with treatment but there is treatment for it. Hopefully someone will respond quickly for you. As far as culling her if you think she is too far gone I do Believe decapitation is the best /fastest method you can use. People differ on this. It severs the nerves so there is no/little pain. While you are waiting if you have any Tums /calcium it wouldnt hurt to give her some

Glenda Heywoodo

Dec 19, 2016
Cassville Missouri
Signs that you may have a chicken that is egg bound could be repeated visits to the nest and/or trying to lay an egg for hours and becoming distressed. Later on she may become lethargic and ‘droopy’. If you have noticed your hen acting strangely in this way (you may even get alerted to it by one of her coop mates who has raised the alarm) you can check for egg bound by looking at, and massaging around her bottom area for an egg shaped lump.

A vet will probably be able to help the best, but if you want to try some ‘at home’ methods then you may be able to visually see a bulge, or feel that there is an egg there. If she is still walking about and relatively happy, then giving her some electrolytes will help hydrate and will also give calcium. Apply some lubricant to the area to help the egg exit easier and give her a nice warm area to relax for a while. If she is used to being handled and doesn’t find it too stressful then submerging her bottom area in warm water and gently massaging the area for about 30 minutes may help relax the muscles. An alternative to that would be a warm flannel held over the area. She needs to be kept warm and comfortable.

If the egg is physically too big for the pelvis then it will be impossible to encourage out and the only other option really is to collapse the egg by pricking it with a large syringe (large enough to pull in the contents of the egg). Afterwards let her relax on her own with fluids and calcium and she should eventually pass the remaining egg – it can take anywhere from an hour to a day. One risk with this method is that it is possible that a sharp edge of shell may cut the uterus. Usually the shell would collapse inwards so it shouldn’t cut anything but it is a possibility.

If the cause of the egg becoming stuck is a small pelvis then it is almost certainly hereditary and prevention may not be possible unless it is the eggs themselves which are unusually large for that particular hen. Sometimes jumbo eggs can be the result of feeding too much meat/protein so if you feel that may be the case then cutting back on those elements may help minimize the chance of a large egg becoming stuck again. If the cause of the egg binding is a lack of calcium then crushed oyster shells may help (vitamin D is also needed to help the calcium be absorbed). In theory there should be enough calcium and the other vitamins and nutrients needed present in a balanced layers feed so supplements may not be necessary. If you do supplement and notice the egg shells getting pimples and/or pin holes appearing that may indicate that there is now too much calcium/vitamin D in the diet.

In the March 2011 Newsletter subscriber Stefanne Kelly gave her experience of an egg bound chicken which ended happily and includes photos of a jumbo egg with a smaller egg inside it and also an X-ray of her egg bound hen. Also in the same issue James Rousseaux shares his experience with an egg binding which sadly didn’t end so happily and lists the symptoms and behaviour he noticed in the hope that the info “can save someone else’s chook one day. Because knowing what I know now I could have saved our girl.”

Glenda Heywoodo

Dec 19, 2016
Cassville Missouri
The 4 Most Humane Ways To Kill A Backyard Chicken
Written by: Savannah H. How-To 14 Comments Print This Article

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If you raise livestock for meat, naturally part of that process will be learning how to properly euthanize the animals. However, even if you only keep a few loved pet hens for eggs, you still should understand how to put down a chicken in the event of a severe injury or other emergency.

People who are very sensitive about these things may prefer taking a severely sick or injured chicken to the vet or ask a knowledgeable neighbor to dispatch the animal, but remember that having someone to help you isn’t always going to be possible. If you take on the responsibility of caring for a flock of chickens, you also take the responsibility of having to put down a suffering one if such an event does occur. That goes for any type of livestock and, for some people, even pets if they live in a rural area very far from any veterinarian.

Methods of Putting Down Chickens

Do a simple Google search for how to humanely put down a chicken and you will find a whole slew of different answers — some of which work very well while others shouldn’t be used.

First off, if you are someone completely unfamiliar with euthanizing a chicken, it is easy to fall under the assumption that a “brutal” method must not be humane. For example, using a sharp knife or hatchet to lop off a chicken’s head is often seen as gory and even torturous by some, simply because of the blood. I’ve found many threads in forums about the subject of “humane” euthanasia where the person seems instead to be looking for the best way to kill a chicken with the least participation on their part — even if the method they choose isn’t humane at all.

All The Answers To Every Chicken Question And Quandary …

Here are a list of a few of the most humane methods:

1. Decapitation

Probably one of the oldest methods used, decapitation is a quick death for a chicken when done swiftly. You will need a very sharp, heavy knife/cleaver or a sharpened hatchet, plus someone there to hold the chicken. (You also can use what is called a “killing cone,” which requires only one person.)

Typically, people will use a tree stump as the chopping block. You will want to hammer two nails into the stump, just far enough apart that it will hold the chicken’s head in place. The purpose of the nails is that you can stretch the chicken’s neck slightly (this won’t hurt the bird) so you can get a clean cut. This should all be done very quickly but quietly to ensure the bird isn’t stressed. Have your helper pick up the bird, place the head gently between the nails so the neck is straight, and then chop.

It isn’t a pretty process but this method is quick and humane. It is also fairly fool-proof if you use a sharp knife/hatchet and swing down hard.

2. Cervical dislocation

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Cervical dislocation, or simply breaking the chicken’s neck, is another method that is humane when done correctly but requires more knowledge and confidence to do correctly compared to decapitation. I cannot stress enough that you must be confident in your ability to use this method correctly. There are many people who actually don’t break the neck completely and this just leads to a painful death for the animal.

There are a couple of ways to do this:

  • Snapping the neck by hand – This is obviously a very hands-on approach and therefore not suitable for some people. What you will do is hold the chicken in your left arm, grasp the chicken’s head at the base of its skull (you can feel where the skull meets the neck) and snap the chicken’s head in a down and out movement. This is difficult to describe to in text, so I recommend you watch a video on how to do this or ask for an experienced neighbor or fellow chicken owner to show you. I’ve seen people do this on full-grown chickens, but I am not a very big person so I have only used it on young chickens and older chicks.
  • Using the “Broomsticking” Method – The broomsticking method is done by placing the chicken down on a hard surface between your feet, placing a broomstick behind the chicken’s head (just where you would place your hand), stepping down on the broomstick while simultaneously pulling up the chicken’s back legs to snap the neck. Again, please watch a video or have someone show you before trying this to ensure you do it properly. I haven’t used this method on chickens, but it is what I use for rabbits. It is quick, humane and does allow a smaller person to dispatch an animal that may be too large with the above technique.
Cervical dislocation is easy to learn and does have the benefit of being a bloodless method. However, please refrain from trying to just “wring” the chicken’s neck. There are some people who try simply to grab the chicken’s head with both hands and fling it about or over their head in an effort to break its neck. This is incredibly stressful and painful for the chicken since more often than not this fails. Please use one of the two above methods instead!

3. Use a gun or pellet gun

Another humane method is to use a gun (like a .22) or a pellet gun to dispatch the bird. A pellet gun is often more than enough as long as it is powerful enough. The pellet handguns are quite useful. Typically what I will do is wrap the chicken in a towel, place it on the ground and kneel down over the bird.

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I will then use a pellet gun close to the chicken’s head to dispatch the bird. This is a very easy method but not doable from those who don’t have a gun/pellet gun.

4. Using a CO2 ‘chamber’

This final method is better suited for chicks, bantam or young adult chickens. It requires more work but some people do prefer it for one reason or another. I recommend reading this article for more information. Some people also use a paintball CO2 canister as well.

Another method that seems to get passed around that is not at all humane is placing a chicken in a bag or box which is attached to a car’s exhaust. This is not humane like CO2 and is a very painful death, with the combination of heat and chemicals. If you are going to use anything, go with the above CO2 chamber or use a different method altogether.

Putting down a loved hen or favorite rooster isn’t an enjoyable process but it is important to know how to do it properly – and is necessary if you are raising chickens for meat. As mentioned before numerous times, it is best to watch educational videos or have an experienced person help you. Some rural vets will even give you advice on how to properly dispatch a chicken at home.

What is your preferred method to kill a chicken? Share your advice in the section below:

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