The Best Way to Dispatch a Chicken

I have used the neck dislocation method successfully for years when a bird has been suffering and needed to be dispatched, but when I was researching to write the article on this method, I thought I would see whether this was the best way to dispatch a chicken at home and whether I should be providing information on our website about it.

There are some slaughter devices on the market that look like a pair of pliers (some versions can also be fixed to the wall too) so I wondered if I was out of date with my method of dispatching chickens but after some extensive research on the subject, I found out that these devices (that are sold by many reputable online suppliers too) aren’t actually very good at killing a chicken.

These ‘Chicken Dispatchers’ actually kill a chicken by crushing the neck and spinal cord rather than dislocating it which can cause a great deal of unnecessary suffering before death if they are not set up correctly and to set them correctly was very difficult because no two birds are the same. I found out that the Humane Slaughter Association (H.S.A) didn’t recommend these devices.

So what about the neck dislocation method?

I was then surprised to find out that the H.S.A. had ‘reservations’  about the neck dislocation method however it is legal to use this method in the UK at home.

They say ” it is difficult to consistently achieve an immediate loss of consciousness” which I would totally agree with. If you don’t get it right, there certainly is suffering and because of this, I certainly would urge people to try to get an experienced poultry keeper to show them how to practise neck dislocation properly.

When I was younger, a friend of mine had me practising on pheasants that had been shot – when you get it right, you can feel the neck stretch and then feel the gap between the vertibrae afterwards so you know you’ve done it correctly.  The HSA recommends that the neck dislocation method should only be used in emergencies or for very small numbers of birds where no better method is available.

So what is the correct method?

The H.S.A. advises that when it is possible, other more humane methods should be practised such as using electrical or mechanical concussion stunning. This should be followed immediately by a killing method like bleeding or neck dislocation whilst the bird is still unconscious.

The hand-held electrical stunners and mechanical percussive devices are available but they do cost approximately £500 to £700 which is out of reach for your average poultry keeper.

The neck dislocation method still seems to be the best approach for us to dispatch a chicken at home. The key factor is the time it takes for a bird to lose consciousness so that it is not suffering which means you might want to think about practising on a few dead pheasants too!

So I continued to write my article which has now been uploaded here: How to Dispatch a Chicken

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Tim Daniels

Tim is the founder of the poultrykeeper website and lives in Herefordshire, UK. He keeps Cream Legbar chickens, Silver Sebright bantams and hybrid layers for eggs, Abacot Ranger ducks, Brecon Buff geese and some quail.

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