Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Euthanised my first chicken tonight…does this get easier?  (Read 4613 times)


  • Joined Oct 2022
Euthanised my first chicken tonight…does this get easier?
« on: October 12, 2022, 01:51:04 am »

We’ve had chickens since March 2020 and I think we’ve been pretty lucky that we’ve not had any major issues with predators or disease. We started with 4 hens of which one died and then added 3 of which one died suddenly a few weeks later of unknown causes. We then added a cockerel and a bit later 3 more hens. So we had a nice healthy, well integrated flock of 9 birds.

Then on Friday past, two unaccompanied dogs entered our garden and killed one of our hens and left two more seriously injured. Our own dogs heard the commotion and barked and I immediately ran out and chased the dogs away but the damage was done. It could have been worse and I’m thankful I was there at the time. But it was harrowing to say the least to see dogs ripping your birds to shreds in front of you…

This was the first time I have experienced such an event so my immediate reaction was to do everything possible to help the injured birds. Unfortunately one was already dead but the other two were still alive so I took them to my local farm animal vet to see what could be done. I feared the worst tbh as they were pretty beaten up but I had to try.

In the end we had to put our Buff Barred (aka “Buffy”) to sleep as she had a large section of flesh ripped on her side which was not repairable. But our Rhode Rock (aka “Marilyn”) was potentially savable so she was given pain relief and antibiotics. This little bird was tough as old boots because I nursed her back from the brink of death once before when she suffered some sort of infection in the middle of a heat wave and it took basically a miracle to bring her back. She is one of our 4 original birds along with Buffy so we are very attached to her.

Over the weekend we spoiled her rotten with meal worms, grapes and other moist foods to keep her hydrated, and we bathed her in epsom salts as advised by the vet to help heal any wounds. She was kept in my office nice and warm and quiet although I talked to her constantly and tried to encourage her to recover.

But it was pretty clear that, although she didn’t have any obvious fractures, she had either nerve damage or musculoskeletal damage and wasn’t likely to recover at 3 years of age. The only question was whether to take her to the vet to be euthanised or to do it ourselves.

The “easy” option is to go to the vet but having put our Buffy to sleep at the vet’s, it wasn’t exactly a quick process due to the difficulties of finding a vein etc. It took at least 90-120 seconds for Buffy to go unconscious and many minutes later she was still breathing.

So, having researched carefully how best to euthanise a chicken, I came across an article by “Mike The Ckicken Vet” ( )

I honestly believe this was the best way to euthanise our chicken but it was difficult to say the least. The cervical dislocation method is described in the above article and I followed it closely but there is a very fine line between using insufficient force and not making a clean kill, and using excessive force and making a bit of a mess. I won’t go into more details but it was upsetting and I want others to be better prepared than I was. On the plus side, she didn’t suffer. But I sure did!  :'(

So my question is - does this get any easier? Or should it always be this difficult because if we don’t care then what’s the point? Was I wrong to do it myself? Or are there better methods? (to be clear, my focus is to make it easier on the animal not me.)

And yeah, as a 49 year old man, I cried a few times during all this.

I hope this helps others faced with similar situations.

Oh, and I found out today who owns the dogs that caused the damage because apparently they have been running loose again tonight and chasing sheep. The owners don’t believe that their “pets” are causing such a nuisance. Rest assured I will be paying them a visit tomorrow to educate them on the responsibilties of a dog owner!  >:(


  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: Euthanised my first chicken tonight…does this get easier?
« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2022, 07:54:08 am »
Neck dislocation is not deemed by the Humane Slaughter Association as a humane method of dispatch.


  • Joined Sep 2020
  • Norfolk
Re: Euthanised my first chicken tonight…does this get easier?
« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2022, 08:18:11 am »
No it doesn't get emotionally easier [member=222263]craigc[/member] but you will get more accomplished if you do it regularly.

If you are uncomfortable with neck dislocation then why not buy an air pistol. Used at close range directly between and a little behind the eyes the shot goes straight into the brain and death is instantaneous. You will need an assistant though to hold the bird on the ground so you can place the muzzle against the bird's head.


  • Joined Dec 2011
  • Gascony, France
Re: Euthanised my first chicken tonight…does this get easier?
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2022, 08:42:14 am »
I'd say the same as Richmond- perhaps it gets emotionally more difficult. Despite the ridiculous price of chicken here and having the right breeding set we've decided against rearing for the table.

The air pistol is a good method. I was told to place the muzzle above the eyes and aim slightly back towards the ears. If the bird just stops moving you have missed what is a very small target and it is only unconscious- wing flapping and running should be immediate.


  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Euthanised my first chicken tonight…does this get easier?
« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2022, 09:13:49 am »
I feel for you  :hug:.  Our (my then hubs and me) first experience was almost identical to yours.

No, it is always harrowing and there is always huge anxiety about doing it right and quickly and have I done it, is it dead? 

If a gun is an option for you, go for it.

If not, you can either become very skilled with the broomstick method (and an experienced person can do it very quickly and cleanly with no stress to the bird), or invest in a humane dispatcher and learn how to use it properly.

Rosemary is right that neck dislocation is not regarded as the most humane method and is certainly not recommended for routine dispatch of large numbers.  But it is authorised and, in the absence of other equipment, recommended for immediate dispatch of a wounded bird to prevent suffering, so if you keep birds and don't have a suitable gun, you should be sure that you can do it proficiently. 
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing


  • Joined Feb 2012
Re: Euthanised my first chicken tonight…does this get easier?
« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2022, 09:18:00 am »
Dog attacks involving any animal is distressing for you and your animals and is costly. The dog owners need to be reported to the police. You should send them your vets bill.  :hug:


  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Euthanised my first chicken tonight…does this get easier?
« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2022, 10:47:57 am »
Sorry your birds were caught by the dog. I too would foot all the bills to the dog owner if you know who they are, plus the cost of replacement birds. If we have to put a chicken down we use the broomstick method, never had a problem with that method as long as you don’t faff about once the stick is over the neck.


  • Joined Mar 2019
  • North Shropshire
  • Dreamer with Mary, (cow) and sheep.
Re: Euthanised my first chicken tonight…does this get easier?
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2022, 01:34:08 pm »
The neighbours cat got one of my birds, it was half Bengal (but he's lovely) she whined when I told her I would shoot him if he attacked my new born lambs (he was a big boy!)

To keep the peace, they roofed my chicken run, wire, trusses, not a bad job really, 12ft ish squareish (nothing square or level here).

She didn't believe us it was her cat even though it happened in front of the mechanic, cat even dragged hen up and over the run walls (about 9ft high ish)
Halter train the cattle to keep them quiet but watch your back when they come a'bulling! Give them all names even those you plan to eat. Always be calm. Most importantly, invest in wellies with steel toe caps and be prepared for the clever cow who knows where the toe caps end!!


  • Joined Oct 2022
Re: Euthanised my first chicken tonight…does this get easier?
« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2022, 05:26:55 pm »
Thanks to all who posted above, it's nice to have the support of fellow poultry keepers. Just to touch on a few points made above:

Neck dislocation is not deemed by the Humane Slaughter Association as a humane method of dispatch.

Thanks for the link Rosemary (my wife and I were on your small holding course by the way  :wave: )
I did a lot of research on the different methods of dispatch and as with many things like this, there are a lot of different, sometimes opposing opinions. I know you advocated using an air rifle on the course but as you know we need a license to own an air weapon in Scotland and unfortunately I don't have one yet. I probably will apply for one soon though and perhaps even a shotgun license but as of right now that's not an option for us.

According to the link you sent, it also says that a free bullet method although legal, is "neither safe nor practical" so again opinions vary. I went with the neck dislocation only on the basis that it would simultaneously sever the spinal cord (causing concussion and unconsciousness) and neck arteries. I very carefully used the method described in the article I linked and it was certainly successful in that I severed the cord and blood supply. I just overdid it slightly and de-gloved the neck from the skull base. I should also point out that I spent 30 mins or so of quality time with her beforehand and took her to see her old buddies and have a last feed of mealworms together before taking her out of sight of the other birds for a wee cuddle before she passed.

I did consider the broomstick method but ironically I expected it was even more likely to overdo it that way. I also considered CO2 because I have CO2 welding gas but I understand you have to get the concentration just right to induce sleep without panic. And of course I considered taking her to the vet but wasn't impressed with my previous experience of that method as it took ages. It was peaceful though...

So anyway, perhaps the airgun method might be better in future and I will certainly get a license. I used to be a very good shot with a rifle during my teenage years before irresponsible airgun owners caused the government to spoil it for everyone.

As for the dog owners and giving them the bill, I didn't get round to see them today since it was my son's birthday and we had a "family fun day" instead, knocking down breeze block walls in the shed! His idea not mine!  ;D
I do intend to pay them a visit though and we'll see what sort of response I get. My main aim is firstly to make them aware of the damage and the cost of that damage, to give them the opportunity to apologise and perhaps pay for my losses. But also I want them to be aware that this is the only warning they will get and next time it will be a visit from the police at least and perhaps worse. As I said, I don't own a gun but there are plenty of farmers around me who do and won't hesitate to protect their livestock as is their right. That said I will protect my chickens fiercely if I have to, gun or not!

To end on a positive note, our neighbour picked up 4 hens yesterday and only wanted 2 so offered us the others. So we added a Light Sussex hybrid and a Buff Orpington to our flock. They have already been accepted by the flock. The Buff Orpington is absolutely gorgeous and very tame already.

Thanks again to all who offered support and advice - always appreciated.


  • Joined Dec 2011
  • Gascony, France
Re: Euthanised my first chicken tonight…does this get easier?
« Reply #9 on: October 12, 2022, 06:32:02 pm »
How did these dogs get to your chickens? Are your chickens in a fox proof enclosure, because foxes will appear and kill at any time of day and night? There is no point in replacing your flock until the issue of security has been addressed and until then and after you are entirely responsible for their well being.


  • Joined Sep 2011
  • West Yorks
Re: Euthanised my first chicken tonight…does this get easier?
« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2022, 02:33:44 am »
I have to psych myself up for a day if anything needs doing, but TBH, it may sound messy, we use a cleaver, quickest way for them, hard for whoever has to do the deed.
Hope you get the dog owner sorted and to pay the bull.

Steph Hen

  • Joined Jul 2013
  • Angus Scotland.
Re: Euthanised my first chicken tonight…does this get easier?
« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2022, 08:01:34 am »
Although brutal I prefer to stun with a heavy head blow with the back of an axe and then on the second stroke decapitate (sharp axe needed).


  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Euthanised my first chicken tonight…does this get easier?
« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2022, 08:37:17 am »
Euthanasia of an old/ill/injured bird (any animal) is always more difficult to do than if you do it to eat the meat afterwards.

If you do eat meat (and you don't say) then you just need to learn to get on with it. Homekill is still the least stressful option for any meat animal - we rear our own meat chicks, eat the breastmeat of surplus cockerels from our home-hatched egg laying flock, and have in the past reared and dispatched ducks and geese. I refuse to buy that meat in the shops, as IMO the commercial rearing of meat poultry is just not what I want to eat.

As to dogs getting onto your land - it is up to the dog owner to restrain/control their animals (and livestock), not you to fence them out (within reason, esp if you have a public footpath on your land). However I would agree that fox-proofing your poultry areas is the better way forward. Electric poultry netting is very good, preferably mains powered.


  • Joined Oct 2022
Re: Euthanised my first chicken tonight…does this get easier?
« Reply #13 on: October 13, 2022, 12:54:18 pm »
Interesting point [member=3211]Anke[/member]  - yes we do eat meat and intend to rear some meat birds probably next year to stock the freezer. I think there is a different mindset when rearing for the freezer and you probably don't get so attached to them because typically they'll all look very similar and you only have them for a relatively short time. Welfare is still a priority of course but emotional attachment is much less (I expect anyway).

[member=23925]chrismahon[/member] thanks for your comment - we free range the birds around our garden at present and this is only protected by cattle netting so obviously not fox proof. We've only seen one fox during daytime in 3 years of living here but I take your point that they will be around at times. We always bring the flock into the secure 6m x 3m x 2m run (welded mesh sides/skirts plus double layer chicken wire roof and from there they can access the coop via an automatic door. In the morning the door opens at first light and the chickens can again enter the run but are only allowed out to free range once we are up and about. I work from home full time so keep an eye on them.

That all said, we probably will look at creating a free ranging area for the chickens to avoid a repeat of last week.

But as others mentioned, the onus is absolutely on dog owners to control their dogs and not just let them out in the morning "to play", oblivious to the damage they are doing. I walk our own dogs on leads since they are hounds and I wouldn't have fancied trying to fend off two loose dogs with my two on their leads. I'm also glad our cats weren't attacked by the dogs.


  • Joined Oct 2022
Re: Euthanised my first chicken tonight…does this get easier?
« Reply #14 on: October 17, 2022, 11:03:38 am »
Sorry for the double post but I'm sure many of you will be pleased to hear that I spoke to the owners of the dogs and they were extremely apologetic (and mortified) and are actively taking steps to create a secure compound for their dogs. I saw the newly sourced fencing lying in their paddock waiting to be put together - the sort of stuff you see on a building site.

They also compensated me for my loss in cash there and then so I consider the matter closed. I did give them some words of advice but it seems they have already been told on no uncertain terms by others that their dogs will be shot if found chasing livestock again.


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