How to Kill a Chicken
You may never have to kill a chicken, or want to, but if you do then you want to kill it properly. If you care about animals then you want to cause them the minimum amount of stress and and pain.
There is an unfortunate saying in the English language which states to 'Wring a Chicken's Neck'. In fact it gets 154,000 results on Google so there are a lot of people out there who gather that 'wringing' is the way to go about it. It isn't, at least not in the way that people understand wringing. People believe wringing is as in a wet towel i.e. twisted, squeezed and compressed to remove water. There is no question about it. This would kill the chicken but it would take time and be stressful and painful to the bird and traumatic for the 'wringer'.
So forget about wringing. Never use the phrase in connection with a chicken ever again. Chickens will thank you for it.
I like chickens. I like all animals. Before I started by zoo career I had killed very few creatures and none in anger. In fact before I worked in zoos I had never really thought about animals eating animals. I had seen the wildlife documentaries of course but somehow, on screen, you are divorced from reality. Lions ate meat, Hawks ate pigeons. Where the meat and pigeons came from was not actually in the formula.
I was thrown in at the deep end. I started as a 'cat keeper' with responsibility for Lions, Tigers, Leopards, Pumas, Caracals and others. Okay, I did get some training but it was very much a very steep learning curve. Amongst the skills I had not even contemplated as part of a 'zoo career' were butchery and killing chickens.
Generally speaking (there are exceptions) the large cats in zoos are fed six days a week and fasted on one. Usually they will be fed whole meat on five days and chickens on the sixth. The chickens are fed whole, feathers, bones and all. This is all important roughage.
Every week a lorry used to arrive at the zoo with a few dozen 'past lay' hens. These arrived live and were placed in a coop till they were needed. It was my responsibility to care for these and so I did. I treated them especially well and in return they continued to produce a few more eggs. I appreciated this as my wages were very low and freshly laid eggs were outside my budget.
Once a week the day came round. The killing day. The first time I was horrified. I had not got a clue how to go about it. I didn't want to do it. It really was something I had to think long and hard about. The first few times I sought assistance in culling the chickens. The people I asked did the deed but, to me, did not seem to have clue. The birds died, usually headless and messy. It was not a pleasant sight. I actually suffered watching. These were living, breathing, thinking creatures. They did not deserve the stress and trauma.
In the end I decided to do it myself. I am now an expert at killing chickens. I have killed thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of them over the years. I can kill quickly with the minimum of fuss and without mess or stress. I can kill almost as fast as the chicken is handed to me. Easily 20-30 chickens killed within a minute but I am not counting. It is hardly a competition event. I still like chickens. I think about them and everything I ever have to help along. I care about animals.
There is no need for blood. Axes and knives are the choice of some, usually because they know no better. I suppose they believe that once the head has been removed then the animal is dead. It is usually but even then some get it wrong. You only have to think back to 'Mike the headless chicken'. The trouble with blades is that there is a lot of blood and it is messy.
How to Kill a Chicken
I am right-handed.
- Grasp the two legs of the chicken firmly in the right hand and raise the bird off the ground. Suspended in this way the head wil be hanging down.
- The chest are of the bird should be facing to the right.
- Run your hand down the chickens neck and with the back of your hand facing up towards you place your index and middle finger on either side of the chickens neck where it meets the skull.
- At this point the top of the chickens head will be touching the palm of your hand and tilted back with its beak facing towards the inside of your wrist.
Now you are ready. The next step is the important one. This is the kill. You want to do it properly and with conviction. If you mess up now then the animal will suffer. You don't want it to suffer and neither do I. If you don't think that you can go through with it then just put the bird down and go and seek help from someone else. If you think you can do it:
- Raise the bird up with your right hand and gripping tightly pull down with the left hand. You will feel a sort of pop and the head will no longer be connected to the spine. Pull down a bit more but not so much as you are pulling the head off the bird...that is messy.
At this point the chicken will start thrashing about. This is quite normal. This nerves. The birds eyes may even be open and it is blinking and tongue moving. Don't look at that end. Hold the bird still suspended in close to your body. You will feel the neck engorge with blood and within two minutes it will stop moving completely.
If you were to have chosen to decapitate the bird instead of pulling the neck then the bird would be thrashing or even running around spraying blood everywhere 'like a headless chicken' (another distinctive English phrase) for a couple of minutes. If you had decided to 'wring the neck' then the chances are the bird would still not be dead and would be suffering.
If you have killed the bird for your own table then now is the time to pluck it, whilst it is still warm. Plucking is a bit of an art form but it is not difficult to learn.
Within a zoo situation we normally kept all the feathers on board. Within the zoo too I would not normally hold the bird after I killed it but move immediately on to the next one.
There are zoos which feed live chickens to their big cats, snakes and others. Not only do I consider this to be extremely cruel but it is pointless and unnecessary too. Sometimes the argument is put forward that it is 'enriching'. It maybe so but it is certainly not enriching for the chicken. Others say that it is to retain 'the wild streak. Why? With very very few exceptions are any zoo animals going to be returned to the wild in my lifetime. Such live feeding is simply not necessary and panders more to some morbid fascination in some people rather than anything else.
I can see a point in some instances to have warm moving prey given to an animal which has ceased interest in food and gone into a long and worrying fast. In such instances it is easy enough to take the living chicken along to the enclosure, pull its neck and then toss it in. Nine times out of ten it will be grabbed almost instantly. The chicken does not suffer.
Video on How to Kill a Chicken
There used to be an excellent video on 'How To Kill A Chicken' on YouTube but it has long since disappeared. I thought to replace it with something just as clear. A search turned up a hundred gory videos of how not to do it. The video below shows 'my' way but uses a bit of equipment which I do not use. The methodology however is broadly the same. The guy obviously cares.