If you keep chickens, you’ve probably pondered the possibility of having to put one down at some point. When I first kept chicken, my son would teasingly ask me when I would make chicken dinner from my rooster.
I would tell him to get his dirty eyes off my innocent birds and ignore the thought for the time being. But just when my first batch of chicks turned a few months old, I experienced firsthand how difficult it is to kill a sick chicken. And ignoring the fact that I ate their eggs, I treated the chicken just like one would treat their children.
However, the deed is essential to perform, and being prepared makes things a lot simpler when the time comes. Moreover, when you are in a similar position, you would want to kill your chicken as humanely as possible. But how do you humanely kill chickens?
This particular query has sparked a lot of debate. Some argue that the axe and stump approach is the most humane because the bird is put to instant sleep. Others argue that slicing the throat is just as merciful because it rapidly interrupts blood flow to the brain, producing the same humane consequence, which is a logical explanation.
There are multiple approaches! And I have included a complete guide in this post to help you humanely kill a chicken. So make sure you check it out!
How Are Chickens Humanely Killed on a Large Scale?
Let’s start our topic by discussing how workers humanely kill chickens on a large, commercial scale. Once broiler chickens reach the market size and weight, workers trained in humane care transport them to the processing plant. From there, the chickens go through the culling process, which has two stages: stunning and slaughtering.
Step 1: Stunning the Birds
Workers trained in humane handling delicately suspend the birds by their feet on a moving line once they arrive at the processing plant. The hens become calm in a couple of seconds thanks to “rub bars,” which create a soothing touch on the chicken’s chest. The birds, thus, keep calm when this sensation is combined with low lighting.
Every effort is made in contemporary poultry processing plants to process hens fast and painlessly. Poultry farmers adopt one of several methods to stun chickens before slaughtering them.
In this method, the workers suspend the birds upside down by their legs on metal hooks along a moving conveyor belt. When the bird’s head comes into contact with the water, an electrical circuit runs between the water bath and the chain, stunning the birds.
The conveyor belt then transports the birds to a mechanized neck cutter, which slices the neck’s major blood vessels.
Controlled Atmosphere Stunning
In the United States, the poultry farmers stun birds by suspending them in electrocuted water. However, this method was declared inhumane, which is why they have switched to killing poultry (chickens, hens, and turkeys) with gas. This process involves using a variety of gas-killing devices and gas combinations. Birds are kept in their shipping crates and placed in a gas system where they are exposed to air and gas mixtures until they die.
This technique is preferred because it eliminates the need to touch and chain up live birds. Moreover, it offers animal welfare benefits like knocking the birds off instead of killing them.
1 – Killing Chickens with Carbon Monoxide
The technique of stunning chickens using gas is considered humane. When stunned with carbon monoxide, the chicken will become sleepy and fall asleep but not wake up. In this process, workers take a container that they can properly seal. They fill the container halfway with peroxide or vinegar and baking soda and then put the chicken inside. When they close the cover, the chicken gets drowsy in a matter of minutes.
2 – Killing Chickens with Carbon Dioxide
Another commonly used gas for stunning chickens is carbon dioxide. In this method, workers pre-fill an airtight chamber with carbon dioxide gas. They then introduce the birds to the chamber and add CO2 until the chickens are confirmed dead. In high CO2 concentrations, chickens become unconscious very quickly, and their perceptual capabilities cease to trigger after being knocked down.
Both these systems of stunning chickens using gas are equally humane. This is because they both require monitoring, proper modification, and management to ensure they follow humane care criteria.
Step 2: Slaughtering the Animal
Technology has made slaughtering exceedingly swift to reduce pain. While a single cut to the throat of an unconscious bird is generally effective, skilled employees are on hand to immediately euthanize any remaining birds if the blade misses for whatever reason. Proper equipment maintenance and this backup “manual” system are essential for a quick and humane killing process.
Can You Kill Your Own Chickens?
We discussed the process of humanely killing chickens on a commercial level. But the question is, “can we kill our chickens?” Of course, you can! At least there’s no law that says otherwise!
People usually slaughter their home-bred chickens for two reasons: the chicken is sick or because you want to eat it. Many people are reluctant to slaughter chickens at home because they doubt it is illegal. However, you don’t need a license to kill chickens at home if you own the animal and kill it on your land. Also, it shouldn’t be unacceptable since you’re slaughtering it to feed yourself and your immediate family who live on your land.
In the second scenario, if one of your chickens becomes ill or injured, you may need to consider whether euthanasia is the most considerate option for your hen. Regardless of the reason, if you are not properly trained in humane euthanasia procedures, you should never try to kill your hens.
Only a competent individual with the relevant skills and knowledge of acceptable euthanasia methods should undertake chicken euthanasia. To be considered humane, the euthanasia method must result in quick death or a loss of consciousness before death while the bird is still unconscious. Ideally, if your hen requires euthanasia, you should consult a veterinarian or a poultry expert.
Even if you are doing it yourself, remember to comply with federal standards and the model codes of practice. The government may impose prosecution and fines if you don’t follow state animal welfare legislation and regulations.
How to Stun a Chicken Before Slaughter?
Before slaughter, it is routine practice in contemporary chicken processing factories to render birds insensible-unconscious and unable to feel pain. The procedure is referred to as “stunning.” Before being bled out during slaughter, the worker must stun the chicken to make it unconscious and insensible.
Electrical stunning and controlled atmospheric stunning are the two most common modern ways to stunning domestically. The former is accomplished by drenching the birds’ heads in water or a mist and establishing a mild electrical circuit. In the second method, broilers are stunned in a controlled atmosphere by being exposed to a mixture of inert gases or carbon dioxide concentrations. Birds lose consciousness due to the gas combination depriving them of oxygen.
Broomstick Method of Killing a Chicken
We discussed stunning chickens by electrocuting or exposing them to gas before killing them. But there is a limitation to the process. Not everyone has CO2 cylinders available, and people obviously can’t be performing electrocution in their homes. In this case, the most effective approach is to kill the bird directly.
There are multiple ways to kill a bird; the broomstick method, for example. As the name suggests, the process involves a broomstick with which you kill a chicken by following these steps:
Place the chicken on the ground, and place the stick across the back of its neck, holding it by the stomach.
Place one foot gently across the stick (just enough pressure to keep it in place) and move your hand back to grab its back legs.
This is the most difficult step because you will be doing several tasks simultaneously (to avoid any undue suffering for the bird). Bring your second foot up to the stick and, while pulling up on the chicken’s legs, apply pressure on the stick with both feet at the same time.
The chicken’s necks will snap, and you will be able to feel and even hear it. Once that happens, swiftly remove the head to the bird to bleed out.
While the broomstick method appears to be an uncomplicated procedure, you should only perform it if you are familiar with the process. Put another way; the hens will suffer more if you don’t snap their necks properly. So, when you opt-in, make sure you execute and complete this process appropriately. Many people break the animal’s neck carelessly. As a result, this ends in a terrible death because it is not done appropriately.
Using a Knife: Where to Cut a Chicken’s Throat?
The technique of cutting a chicken’s neck using a sharp knife is called ‘slicing,’ To execute this method, you can use either a kill cone or have someone hang the chicken upside down, pinching her wings.
You should slaughter chickens as quickly as possible after stunning, ideally within 15 seconds. During slaughtering, you should make sure to slit both the carotid arteries and the veins from which they emerge. This procedure is indicated to assure death before regaining consciousness. Cut her throat on either side of her larynx with the knife, directly under her chin. Then, make an incision parallel to its jaw bone on each side so that your knife cuts the arteries instead of the trachea.
Make sure that your knife is sharp. The sharper the blade used to kill an animal, the less painful and humane the death will be. The knife blade should be attempting to slice your flesh with the least amount of force possible, and it should feel abrasive similar to the spikes on a thorn.
For food safety concerns, you should suspend the bird you slaughtered for consumption for some time after cutting the neck. This allows the blood to flow down from the carcass. Ideally, you should suspend the chicken for at least one-and-a-half minutes.
What is a Chicken’s Killing Cone?
Many studies and trials have been conducted, and the agreement is that the most humane approach to killing a chicken is to use a chicken killing cone. You can efficiently calm the chicken down by placing upside down and holding it by the cone’s walls before running the knife through its throat.
It’s simple to hold on to the chicken’s neck in this position and then slice the chicken with a sharp knife to bleed it out. Other killing methods allow the chicken to bounce around, but this approach keeps it contained.
Before putting the bird in a cone, I try to calm it down. You can “hypnotize” a chicken and put it into a trance condition before putting it in the killing cone. Tuck the chicken’s head under one of its wings. Then, holding it by the stomach, move it a figure ‘8’ rhythm through the air. This is an immediate soothing impact on the birds.
Killing a Chicken with an Axe
Killing a chicken with an axe is probably the easiest for beginners, although it isn’t the cleanest. This particular method of killing a bird is called ‘the chop’ because, well, you chop its head off its body.
Lie the chicken down on its face and make a single, clean cut on its neck. For many people, slicing a chook’s head off is the only way to get rid of it. This is a swift approach as long as the bird’s head is entirely cut at the first hit; the chicken knocks out, and all body processes stop.
To calm the chicken, have someone else hold it upside down, then swiftly place its head on a cutting block and swing it. Put all those gym sessions to the test. The more powerful the swing, the more merciful the butchery is. Blood will spill all over the place, but that’s the rule of the game.
Best Axe for Chickens
The only thing you need for the ‘chicken chop technique’ is a sharp axe or hatchet. Not every axe in the market is suitable for chopping a chicken’s head off at one blow. You need to invest in the right axe; I would blindly recommend the Estwing 16″ Camper’s Axe if you ask me.
Designed as an outdoor camper’s axe, the Estwing 16″ is perfect for slicing a chicken’s head off. It does the job quick and clean and usually ends up over killing the poor foul. A single chop down a chicken’s head, and you know with 100% surety that the bird wouldn’t have felt even a millisecond of pain.
Backyard hens may be fantastic companions and a great source of fresh eggs, but they make an even fantastic pot of roast. Whether you’re keeping chicken for meat or as pets, you will have to cull them by desire or need. Whether you are killing the bird to make a meal out of it or to provide relief from an illness, you would want to do so in the gentlest way possible.
And no matter how much its crowing disturbs your sleep at five in the morning, it’s not easy killing the creature. So, make use of this article to learn how to take a bird’s life in the most humane way possible.