And in the Chookyard…How to do the right thing


I finally killed Honey on Wednesday. It had been on my job list for 3 weeks. Killing your chickens takes courage because it’s horrid, but it’s part of being a chook mother. She was old. She spent a lot of time alone. Her eggs were rare and when they did come they were soft shelled. She had stopped roosting and spent her nights in the nesting box only to chase the younger chooks away when they came into lay – meaning the eggs were anywhere willy nilly.

A tomahawk is my weapon of choice when I am doing this job on my own. All those years of chopping kindling has made me a gun with a tomahawk. (You need a weapon you understand.)

Before you go get your old girl (or your sick girl as the case may be) get centred. Unless you are a pragmatic country dude or dudette your heart will be racing. Slow your heart right down. Your chook will pick up on your energy, so for her sake make sure you believe in what you are doing. Your goal is a quick kill. So no crying now, be in command.

This is how I do it. Hold her by her feet and hang her upside down, resting her head on the block. She will go completely still. Bring all your focus to her neck, then bring the ax down good and hard on it. She will jiggle and jive for quite a bit as her nerves do their death dance. I keep holding onto her feet until this stops because to let her go and run round headless has no dignity.

Cry now if you need. Then pat yourself on the back, you brave, brave soldier.




  1. Geoff Benge. says:

    Have you tried the Broom handle kill. Hold the chook upside down with the head resting on the ground. Place a broomstick or something similar over the back of the neck & give a sharp tug on the legs, while holding the neck firmly under the stick. The neck will give a click & it is all over. No blood etc. Alsdo known as the HUMANE Kill.
    Regards. Geoff.

    • Thanks for that Geoff – its the perfect alternative for those who don’t swing an ax. Both methods are as quick and efficient as each other. If you are eating the chook you will have to bleed it out of course, so once you have broom-ed it, slit its throat. regards kath

    • I used the broom handle method with my first four hybrids when they got to the end of their laying usefulness. They are now composting nicely under the trees. Not nice to have to do, but then they are more a tool than a pet. I may very well get some heritage chooks in future (they lay for longer and have a longer useful life…)

      • Thats it Andrea – is it a pet or a purpose? (I like to think mine are somewhere inbetween!) I run a mix of heritage and shavers. The shavers are better regular egg layers, but the heritage live longer and make good mums if need be. I find having older girls around when I introduce new girls useful cause they teach them the ropes (where to lay, perch, eat etc). Far better a chook to teach a chook than me getting involved!

  2. We had a 9-year-old called Friendly, came to us maybe about age 4, blind as a bat but
    very friendly, laid big brown eggs, died a simple natural death, now buried on our property, with her own cross. Now we have another old one, Henrietta, rescued about 6 years ago from the egg factory, she’s also gone blind but is as nimble as ever, especially at feeding time when she comes to a whistle.

  3. Susannah Greenslade says:

    I have 11 chookies all together, but 2 are retired and live free range. They. have a lockwood house filled with hay which I tip the poo out of every morning and on sunny days leave the roof off to freshen the hay. The other 9 chooks live in the official chook house with perches, nest boxes and a small run which we move when they’ve eaten and scratched the grass away. These girls are still laying 6-7 eggs a day and are looking very plush just now. I recently changed their food by adding half the volume of pellets with mixed crushed grais with peas. After mid day they are let out of their house to range free in our orchard and fields, coming back again at dusk when I feed the sheep,bulls and goat and of course the chooks

  4. Lyn Murphy says:

    We rescued 4 chooks from the local egg factory almost 12 months ago now – when they arrived they were almost pre-plucked for the pot – and if you appeared without warning they would shoot to the other side of the pen and huddle in abject terror. 12 months on and they are no longer cooped up in a fairly large pen – they free range throughout the garden (I now no longer grown any brassicas until I get the screens up) – a couple of them like to stop in front of me for a scratch and the other two seem to delight in attempting to trip me up as I walk. If I go for a wander round the garden I have a wee entourage behind me – cats dogs and chooks. My only problem is that one of the chooks have developed a wee bit of a pooey butt and all the books say keep off the greens – but how do you do that when they free range?

    • Hi Lyn. A mucky bum is usually a sign they have worms.
      • Keep their house clean and dry,
      • Their water and feed trough clean
      • Keep them on fresh ground – avoid pasturing them on muddy ground.
      • Garlic and cider vinegar in their water trough.
      • Don’t overstock
      • Feed them nettles regularly
      • Fresh unpasteurised milk left over night to curdle is another very effective preventive. (50mls per chook)
      • Include vermifuge herbs every now and then (once a month) with their feed eg: horseradish leaves, garlic tops, garlic, wormwood, tansy, carrot, pumpkin seeds, mustard seeds, elder leaves, nasturtium seeds. All of these herbs are very strong, so little and often is the key. They will eat what they need.

      Signs of Worms: Frothy poos, blood stained poos, runny poos and a dirty bum; Lost Feathers (check this is not from hen pecking); Dull, weepy eyes; Huddled bird – not active; Not hungry;

      NB…You must treat the whole flock at the same time
      Garlic is the best and simplest natural worm treatment – 2 cloves per bird (warning this will make the eggs taste garlicky!)You will need to feed it to them from your hands to make sure they all get the required dose. If you just scatter it in their feed some may not take it.
      If neither of these work then crush a lot of garlic (about ½ kilo) and put it in a stocking. Hang this in the water trough. Make this their only drinking water so you know they are getting it. Do this week on, week off for a couple of months. (use a fresh garlic stocking each time)

      For a really wormy chook make this super mash… they love it

      Anti Worm Mash: (1 birds ration)
      1 handful of wormwood tips
      1 handful of tansy tips
      1 leaf of comfrey
      1 clove chopped garlic
      1 cup of oats
      Mix with enough water to make a thin paste. Give this as their only food every second day, for three days.

      All the best Kath