Lesson 1263 – Putting a chicken down

Warning: this post is about putting a chicken down using a killing cone. I know that this is not something everyone wants to read about so I’m putting a break here.

This weekend, I got a text from a local friend who had a chicken in distress.

Hi Wendy I’m not sure if you’re home or not. I have a dying chicken and I don’t think I can put her down

I recognized the sorrow my friend was in, but I also acknowledged the strength it took to make that decision for her chicken and then to reach out to me. On my way.

I teach a local chicken workshop and anyone who has taken my course or any local resident who has chickens has access to my “service.” And of course, that service is putting a chicken down in an emergency by using a killing cone.

Note: I’m not talking about slaughtering chickens for food. I’m talking about putting a sick or injured bird out of its misery.

I make sure to teach about the killing cone in my chicken class. It’s an important aspect of flock owning. Based on my experience with chopping a chicken’s head off and watching the body try to run away (there is not enough alcohol in the world to erase that memory) I’ve found that the cone is the most humane way to cull a bird. It’s a part of being a responsible chicken owner.

It’s what I use.

And it’s what I offer to others.

My son (the woodsman who was up for the job) and I gathered the cone, a bucket, nail, hammer and sharp knife. We went over to my friend’s house and sure enough she had a near dead chicken on her hands. I did a quick evaluation to see if it was possible to treat the bird, but it was clear that this little chicken was critical.

She would not be getting better.

I took the chicken from my friend’s arm, cooed to her and held her while my son hammered a nail in the tree and hung the cone. He placed the bucket underneath and when he was ready, I gently guided the bird into the cone.

The neck was gently extended from the bottom of the cone, feathers were separated and a quick slice to a jugular vein was all it took. There was no squawking and no struggling. I gently stroked the chicken’s back area and told her she was a good girl, over and over. Within a few minutes, the chicken bled out and she was no longer in pain. My friend watched the whole thing and though she was distraught at losing a member of her flock (aren’t we all?), she could see that the procedure was quick and, more importantly, that it showed the chicken some dignity in her death.

It’s not a topic that chicken owners usually want to talk about, but if you plan to raise chickens, you absolutely need to either have a killing cone (a size medium works for standard size birds) or you need to have access to one. You just never know when you’ll need it.

It’s not that I like to kill birds, it’s that my desire to see an injured or sick bird not be in pain anymore far outweighs any aversion I might have to the actual act. Sometimes the kindest thing to do for a chicken is to end its life.




Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com

Also, join me on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two.

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1 Comment

Filed under All things chickens, chicken care, Chicks, Living Tiny in a Big House

One response to “Lesson 1263 – Putting a chicken down

  1. Phall0106

    I have three girls and I know it’s likely there will come a time when one (or more) needs to be put down. I’ve had to put down several cats over the many years, and I suspect that it won’t be any easier when it comes to my girls. I simply don’t know if I can actually do it myself. Any idea what the options are when a vet is involved? (A vet is who I turned to when the time came for the cats.)

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