Daddy Boy Doing his Job

Daddy Boy Doing his Job

The fact that we love and admire our chickens and turkeys, and often grow to know their adorably weird personalities quite well, does not make slaughter very darned easy. Combine that with the fact that there is a whole lot of absolutely goofy advice on the internet about humane slaughter, and you have a recipe for emotional exhaustion (not to mention needless suffering of your soon-to-be-former friends). We are so fond of a few of our feathered pals that slaughter will never be considered (one of the turkey hens is absolutely smitten with Gordon, and she will therefore live her natural lifespan batting her long eyelashes at him and avoiding the roasting pan even if she ceases to lay eggs).

Fact: chopping off the head of a chicken or turkey is not humane. Chickens and turkeys do not have a mammalian nervous system, and do not lose consciousness just because their heads are severed from their bodies. Imagine. Yah. So don’t do that.

I have heard all sorts of advice: cutting arteries, gassing, electrocuting, sharp knife to the brain….the problem with all these methods is that they either require a lot of skill – how the hell do you practice? – or the technology involved is not actually sustainable for small-scale slaughter. For example, a senior animal welfare veterinarian informed me of a nifty method for mass euthanasia of chickens (probably a cull because of bird flu or other disease) in remote areas where capacity is terribly limited. You attach a hose to the exhaust of a motor vehicle and immerse the other end in a bucket half-filled with water and sealed. There is another hose leading from the top half of the bucket into another sealed container where you place the birds. When you turn the car on, the exhaust is pushed into the water, which catches the nasty particles that may make the birds feel ill or panic, and the carbon monoxide bubbles to the top of the water and into the air. Since the bucket is sealed, the CO inevitably moves through the second hose into the sealed container where the birds simply become drowsy and fall asleep.

This is a lot better than CO2 gassing, which causes birds to suffocate in a panic unless it is done perfectly. It is also better than trying to destroy the brain of a bird by pushing a sharp blade through the roof of its mouth. Good lord, what if you miss? And it’s better than every other method except electrocution with a bird stunner.

But the bird stunner costs around $300. And the problem I have with this CO method is that you have to run a gosh-darned motor vehicle in order for it to work. I can see if you have a heck of a lot of birds to kill, but we usually slaughter two or three at a time. That seems like a lot of climate-changing emission for the sake of three chickens.

So what we have decided upon has received the animal welfare scientist seal of approval: blunt force trauma. Here’s what to do: proceed as if you were going to cut the bird’s head off, but use the broad side of the hatchet or axe instead to flatten its brain completely. Once the brain is destroyed, the bird feels and knows absolutely nothing. Whatever you do from that point forward is humane. Be warned: this method is as icky for the people doing the killing as it is humane for the chicken. Beaks and eyeballs go flying. It’s gross.

But we feel good about it. Birds get a lovely pat before going to the executioner, and we are quite certain they feel as though they are about to get a special treat. The instant destruction of the brain ensures that they don’t have time to experience anything else.