butchering chickens
Killing a chicken
Whether you want to butcher your own meat chickens or are simply keeping hens as farm animals for eggs in order to manage your flock efficiently you will at times need to kill at least some of your chickens.  This page gives you a step by step description of how to kill a chicken as humanly as possible.  There are other methods used to kill chickens but I have found my technique to be quite effective, especially if you only intend to kill two or three chickens.

equipment needed to kill a chicken

photo of equipment needed to kill a chicken.
Equipment needed to kill a chicken: hatchet, shopping block, plastic bin and bag (optional).

Photo of a chicken being held upside down.
Holding a chicken upside by the feet in an upside down position quickly pacifies the bird allowing it to be carried easily.
You will need:-
  1. A sturdy block of wood to act as a chopping block
  2. Sharp hatchet (small axe)
    A large axe will do but I find that a hatchet
    is better as it is easier to wield.
  3. Large plastic container
     A 60 litre rubbish bin is ideal.
  4. Plastic bin liner
    This is optional, it is only needed if you are going to dispose of the chicken in the garbage bin or you intend to pluck and butcher the chicken after you have killed it.

When and where to kill  chickens
Chickens should never be killed in front of the rest of the flock.  Always move any chickens you intend to kill to a place out of site of the chicken run.  For me that is usually the garage; not only is it out of sight of the rest of the flock but it is well lit due to the garage lightning.
I normally kill my chickens at night.  Chickens have no night vision which makes it both easy to collect the chickens (they will all be roosting in one place instead of walking around the chicken run as they would be in the daytime) and less likely that the rest of the chickens will realise that some of their brethren are being taken.  Removing the chickens you intend to kill at night minimises the disruption to the rest of the flock.

preparing to kill  chickens
Before collecting the first chicken to be killed set the chopping block and hatchet on the ground where you intend to kill it with the plastic bin right next to it.  If you are using a plastic bin liner then insert it in the bin.

carrying a chicken
Once you have selected the chicken that you intend to kill pick it up by its feet and flip it upside down.  Chickens carried upright will cry out in distress and attempt to fly away but once they are flipped upside down they will become quiet within a few seconds and can be easily carried to where you want to kill them. 

Killing the chicken
  1. While firmly holding onto the chicken's feet with one hand grasp the chicken's upper neck just below the head with the other hand.
  2. Draw the chicken's feet up to your chest while at the same time turning its head and upper neck so it is at a right angle to the rest of the neck and body.
  3. Illustration of how to kill a chicken.
    Illustration showing the position of the chicken's head and feet as you strike downwards to break the chicken's neck.
    Firmly strike downwards with the hand holding the chicken's neck until the arm is straight.
    Usually there is a cracking sound indicating that the neck is broken, though not always.
  4. Immediately place the chicken's neck and head on the chopping block and strike the neck with the axe until blood is drawn.
    There is no need to cut the chicken's head off, all that is needed is for blood to be flowing.
  5. Dangle the chicken by the feet in the plastic bin until the bird stops rigorously flapping its wings.
  6. Once the flapping has reached a point when the wings are only moving feebly drop the chicken into the bin.
    If you have more than one chicken to kill you can now go and get the next chicken.  By the time you return with the second chicken the first chicken will be dead.
disposing of chicken carcasses
There are three options for disposing of chicken carcasses.

  1. If you intend to butcher (pluck, gut and cut up) the chicken then proceed to do so as soon as possible.
  2. Dispose of in the garbage bin.
     If using this method line the plastic bin with a bin liner, then all you have to do is tie off the liner and place it in the garbage bin.
  3. Bury the chicken under a fruit tree.
    This is my preferred method of disposing of a chicken carcass If I am not going to eat it as carcasses makes good fertiliser.  But make sure you bury it deep enough so that a dog or fox cannot dig it up.  After burying a chicken carcass I always place a sheet of iron weighed down with bricks on top of the burial site to insure this does not happen.