For complete tutorials on butchering chickens, please see my post “How to Butcher a Chicken.”
Butchering An Injured Hen
One afternoon I went out to the chicken coop to lock up the hens, give them fresh water and feed, and collect the eggs. I noticed one of my older White Leghorns had blood on her feathers. I inspected her carefully for signs of vent picking. She had a small spot on her back, but no other signs of obvious injury. I decided to leave her for the evening and check on her again in the morning. I prepared myself for the possibility of butchering the hen if necessary.
An ‘Emergency’ Butcher Session
The next morning it became obvious that she was suffering. It wasn’t a particularly nice day. Temps were in the 20s as I prepared to perform an ‘Emergency Butcher.’ Rather than let the hen suffer, I culled her from the flock that morning. Since one little Leghorn doesn’t provide much meat, I chose another old hen, a Buff Orpington, to butcher too. With two hens cooked down I can make a nice casserole, big pot of soup or stew for several meals.
As expected, the White Leghorn was scrawny and the Buff Orpington was rather fatty. Every Buff Orpington I’ve ever butchered had yellow fat deposits in the abdomen. Some homesteaders use the fat to render down and grease their pans or use in baking. I fed the fat back to the other chickens, along with the rest of the offal.
I don’t want my animals to suffer, so the sick and injured members of the flock are killed as humanely as possible. Decapitation with an ax ends the chickens’ life immediately before they realize what’s happening to them. Taking a hen to the vet is not a cost-effective way to raise your own meat and eggs. Culling them makes the most sense on a homestead. There are many hobbyists who do take their chickens to the vet because they are considered pets. I would never give anyone grief over making that decision. It’s a free country and you can spend your money however you wish. For me, the decision to cull those chickens is very clear…because they are not my pets.