Some survival skills and hacks come in handy when it comes to preparedness and survival. Also, your survival gear can ease your life and increase your survival chances. When homesteading, having a well-developed situational awareness and proper survival tools are vital.
Let us consider a really special skill you will need in order to survive: a humane chicken killing.
To the point
There are many reasons you would need to kill your own chickens, and our modern ethical environment challenges us on how to do that humanely.
When raising backyard chickens, you might need to learn how to murder them, be it old, sick, or the usual injured chicken raised for the eggs and meat.
Moreover, some birds can lay eggs and somehow injure their leg during the process. Therefore, you cannot expect to be able to raise the meat birds and escape the need to kill them.
However, we know how hard it might be to raise chickens and then kill them for the first time and how frustrating the process might be. That is why we created this great article that will help you understand how to kill a chicken and do it humanely.
WARNING: This article has a detailed discussion of how to humanely kill chickens and videos that might contain the same content. Be aware of that when reading further.
#1. Humane methods of killing a chicken
You might be surprised to know that in comparison with other animals, raising chickens, as well as killing them, is an easy process. Three main and simple ways exist: by making a chop, a twist, or a slice.
First-timers might think that these brutal methods are far away from being humane, but they are wrong: killing chickens painlessly is not about doing it with the least effort or without any blood and head or neck cuts; it is actually about making the process as quick as possible, and this is were our methods come in handy.
But before going into that, let us discuss how to make sure that your bird and the flock will not be stressed in times of your chicken killing procedures.
How to keep your chickens calm inside the flock
Your first step would be to go into the flock and whistle quietly so that the chickens would know this is you and not some stranger.
Then, take out your bird in the dark with a red lamp, as this way ensures that other chickens in the flock will not start to scream and stress. Then, accurately place the chicken under your arm and walk away.
These simple steps will definitely help you to kill the chicken as calmly and humanely as it is only possible. We wish you good luck in this uneasy process!
The slice method (with cutting the head of a chicken)
One of the easiest and quickest ways to kill a chicken is the slice. Here are your steps:
- Take a really sharp knife and ask someone to hold the body of the chicken by her two legs in an upside-down position while also pressing the wings. When no one is able to help you, use kill cone stands.
- Make a slice right under the chin of the chicken’s neck. Two parallel to the jawbone cuts are needed – one for each side of the neck.
Note that cutting in the center of a throat will only make the process harder for you and more painful and slower for the bird, and our goal is to make the chicken killing process as humane as possible. Also, be prepared for some blood spilling out of the bird’s neck.
How to understand that the knife is sharp enough to kill a chicken?
Try to put the knife to your fingers: you will need to see that the knife is stretching your skin like silk.
When the fingers can slide against the knife very easily, it is not a sharp knife. The slightest pressure against the skin should give you a cut.
It is essential to have a sharp knife, as this will make the killing process much faster and less painful for your chicken. Sharpen it after every couple of kills.
The chopping method (with cutting the head of a chicken)
If we had to describe this method in one sentence, we would say that it is the easiest, but definitely not the cleanest one, as a lot of blood from the bird’s body will be spilled.
What you need to do is to take an ax or a hatchet, not as sharp as the knife but good enough to kill a chicken. Also, we strongly suggest you not use it to chop some wood before killing the bird.
Now, the vital part for this method to work is a strong will and a second person for holding the legs of your chicken in an upside-down position. Take the bird and place it on a chopping block, then do a quick and strong head cut dividing the head and the neck of the bird. It is imperative to do it from the first try, as this is the most humane.
Be aware that the blood will go everywhere, but as we said, this process is far from something sterile and clean.
The twist method (without cutting the head of your bird)
Cervical dislocation is an old way of killing animals, which can be described as the process of swinging the neck of an animal in circular moves until the crack is heard or the disconnection of a body from the head is made, and then hanging the chicken by legs in an upside-down position in some cool place for a day or so.
You can also make this process not by twisting but by pulling the head out from the neck: what you need to do is to take the bird under your left hand (or the right one if you are left-handed), place your right hand (or the reverse dominant hand) at the base of a chicken’s head and do a quick down and out motion.
After that, close two fingers around the neck of a chicken to feel the void that ensures you that the bird is dead. This might be hard to understand by text, so we recommend you watch some videos on that.
Also, various instruments might be used for this method. This technique can definitely be done in a humane way, but it requires a lot of skills, experience, and confidence. Moreover, for some people, it might be physically easier to kill older chickens but impossible to kill adult ones.
For the reasons above, we would not recommend using a neck twist for your first-time experience. Without precision and a strong grip, you would only end up hurting the animal and making their body feel the pain that was not necessary, which is not what we are looking for.
The pellet gun method (without cutting the head off)
You can also use a usual gun, but a pellet one is often more than enough for killing the chicken.
What you will need to do is place your chicken inside the towel and on the ground, kneel over it and shoot near the head of a bird.
The CO2 chamber method (without cutting the head off)
Clear from the heading, and this method requires you to use a box filled with CO2 gas for a peaceful killing of your chicken. For more information, please look for different videos or ask for the help of some experienced people.
You can also google yourself and find some other ways of killing the chicken, such as snapping the spinal cord or placing your bird in the bag attached to the car’s exhaust.
We do not think that these ones are humane, but you are free to use them if they are easier for you. However, we will not talk about them here.
#2. What happens afterward?
The first thing that you should remember is that any animal with any chosen method will resist you and convulse for a minute or so after your actions. However, at this point, the chicken is definitely dead, so do not worry about that and just be ready.
For making sure that the bird is actually dead, watch into the chicken’s eyes: they will stop moving and will look very relaxed.
If you have any doubts, it is always better to make one more neck cut that is deeper than the previous. BUT, please do it very fast! This will ensure that the chicken does not feel any additional unnecessary pain.
Note on eating the chicken.
The general rule is only to eat healthy poultry’s meat, be it laying hens, aggressive roosters, or usual backyard chickens. When you know for sure that your chicken is sick or have any doubts about it, please do not eat it. Throw the bird away or compose it and thoroughly clean your utensils after the bird is dead.
#3. Preparing the poultry for eating
Now that you made sure that the chicken is dead, the killing process is done, and the next step is processing for food. Here is what you need to do about that.
Feathers: something that we do not need
It is quite hard to remove all the feathers at first. What you need to do to make this process of cleaning hens from feathers easier is scald your chicken for a bit.
The water temperature should not be too hot, as this will start the cooking process, or too cold, as it will not make any difference. Create a temperature close to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and put your chicken or chickens into it for about twenty seconds. Now you can easily remove the feathers.
In this video on how to fastly pluck the feathers of your bird, you can see that people are using a special mechanized chicken plucker, but you can also use your hands.
Eviscerating/Getting rid of any waste internals
For this process, you would first need two buckets: one for the waste and another for edible organs, such as:
- The heart
- The liver
- The gizzard
- The testicles of an old rooster, like younger ones, usually do not have them.
If you chose the method to kill that did not already divide the head of the bird from its neck, do it now.
Then take another knife and eviscerate the cloaca of a chicken. Be prepared, as this is not an aesthetic process:
- Make a circle in the place of the opening of chickens cloacas and accurately tie the intestines. This is made for making sure that no excrements would come out.
- Pull the guts out of the cloaca, and use your fingers/knife to separate the membranes from the body.
- When the intestines are out, other organs can be retrieved. Almost all are easy to take out; only lungs can be a troublemaker that you will need to scrape from the ribs.
Three more steps to go, do not forget about them!
- Remove the oil gland or a bag at the beginning of the tail. This is the thing that creates a horrible, disgusting smell and would be really unpleasant to poke when the chicken is already cooked accidentally.
- Take out the crop, which is located above the gizzard and is really small. This is the last thing you pull out when preparing your bird. For that, simply capture the esophagus and pull.
- And finally, cut the legs of the bird near the knee muscle.
Now, your chicken can be cooked and eaten.
#4. Things you might not have considered but should’ve
The laws of your state
In a city: You might have some laws that can tell you the specifics of keeping the chickens. This might restrict you with the number of birds and tell you what the size of space for keeping them is, whether or not you can purchase and keep roosters is. However, no laws were created to restrict the slaughtering of chickens, so you are safe here.
In a rural area: Building a slaughterhouse might be directly restricted or allowed, but with 90 percent confidence, raising and killing household chickens “for agricultural use” is allowed. If slaughterhouses are prohibited, be sure that there is a difference between this and agricultural usages: you can kill birds as in the second case.
About selling: In some states, you can legally sell your farm chickens on a killing day, but definitely, you cannot resale them elsewhere. For this, some licensing is needed: check your extension services by ZIPCODE to be sure.
Finding a support team for you
It is only logical that killing any animal for the first time might be a heartbreaking and frustrating experience, so all the help available for making your first killing process easier.
In rural areas, you might ask people around if they have experience and are ready to help you, you can also call extension services near you and find out whether they can rent you slaughter equipment. Some areas have workshops on how to kill a chicken, so this might help you to get a better understanding.
Moreover, our modern world provides us with a variety of opportunities to learn about something, and bird-killing is one of them. Find some videos out on the internet, such as this video on the chop killing method with a lot of details on the evisceration, or this one on a cone slice method.
All in all, finding experts or any other emotional and physical help is always a great idea, as this will make your killing process much easier, faster, and less painful for your bird.
But note that killing birds is definitely not for everyone. Get to know yourself enough before making such a decision.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is it ethical to kill a chicken?
It is a philosophical question of somebody’s principles and lifestyle so that everyone will have their own opinion on whether or not it is ethical to kill hens.
Some will say that we are all animals and small ones always get eaten by bigger ones. They will continue this thought and say that the easiest way of getting enough protein is through meat and eggs, that they can distinguish animals on those who can be killed and those who cannot, such as dogs.
Others will say that any animal deserves to live. We humans have something that distinguishes us from every other animal – a brain, which we can use to make different life decisions. One of them is not to eat meat and eggs and find your nutrients in plants, which do not feel any pain. In their opinion, dividing animals into worthy and unworthy of their life is hypocritical.
What we think is definitely ethical is to kill those birds and chickens that you see in constant pain, that are too old to be able to live to the fullest. For example, they can have a broken leg or a wry neck that cannot be recovered, and only more suffering is caused to these chickens by proceeding their lives.
The point is that it is always the choice of a person whether or not it is ethical to kill some creature, chickens included. If it is too hard for you, think about whether or not you can stop eating the meat at all.
What is the most humane way to kill a chicken?
Methods can differ, but what cannot is this: when you made a decision to kill a bird, make sure to do it fast and unexpected.
The fewer attempts you are executing, the faster your actions are – the less pain the bird is feeling. Killing the chicken from the first try is the most humane way you can do it.