In my hunt to find a way of humanely killing our chickens I was lucky enough to find a very knowledgeable former butcher in my area, called Noel, who taught me his method for killing chickens using a ‘killing cone’.  I am familiar with other alternatives (eg axe and chopping block, wringing their necks etc) but for me this seems the lowest risk and most effective way I can manage to minimise the stress caused to the birds.

This post is just about killing them, not dressing and preparing them for eating or the freezer -I’ll write about that later when I have better pictures to illustrate how to do it.

So here’s what you need:

  • A ‘Killing Cone’ – mine is fabricated from recycled metals (thanks Dad!), but you could also make one from heavy duty flexible plastics, a modified traffic cone, or buy one ready made (look online for suppliers of poultry equipment).
  • A place to attach your killing cone – a fence post, tree stump or where-ever. Over a compost heap is a good idea. Or put wood shavings under the cone to absorb blood, and then move to an alternate site.
  • A very very sharp knife for killing – I can’t stress this enough… .if something is going to go wrong it’s most likely because your knife isn’t sharp enough. Get it professionally sharpened, or do it yourself. If you have multiple chooks to kill, sharpen between birds.
  • A bucket to clean  blood and feathers off knife
  • Clothes you don’t mind getting stained.
How to do it:
  • A lot of people will advise you to lock up your chooks the night before in their house, and to starve them for 24 hours – I don’t do this. I just walk into their yard like it’s a normal morning and pick them up. Ideally there’s not a long distance between their yard and the cone.
  • Gently place the bird (head first) into the cone. Having a helper makes this much easier – as the bird goes down the cone you may need to put your hand up through the hole in the bottom of the cone to guide the chicken’s head through it (some may tuck their heads in).
  • Feathers seperated, mid- cut

    When the chicken’s head is protruding from the bottom, gently seperate the feathers on its neck at the point at which you will cut it – you don’t want the added resistance of cutting through feathers.

    When you are ready, very firmly and quickly cut through the neck, using as much physical strength as you can muster. I usually do it in one motion, tilting the birds head/neck back slightly and as push down with the knife. A younger bird will require less force to cut through than an older bird.

    My knife is about 25cm long, and the place on the knife which cuts the neck is about 2/3rds up the knife (so not the point of it).

    What to expect after its head has been removed:

    The bird’s body will rattle in the cone as it involuntarily spasms. You will feel the head moving in your hand for a few seconds. Keep it in the cone for a while to allow its blood to drain out.

    I’ll post about the next stages of plucking and  dressing the bird at a later date.

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