Chickens can die suddenly. Unfortunately that is just the reality of keeping chickens and one that us keepers always need to be aware of and consider. If you have found yourself in the unfortunate position where one of your birds, or several of your flock have died, then you’ll want to know what you can do and your options for disposal. I spent some time researching the topic and would like to share my findings with you here today.
So, what can you do with a dead chicken? You will need to dispose of the chickens body in accordance with any local laws, or authority guidelines. This could mean incineration at a registered premises, or contacting your vet who can organize this on your behalf. Either way it is important that you do not eat any of your dead chickens (due to risks of disease or infections from predators). Equally burying is not advised due to potential legal issues and the risk of being dug up by a predator.
While being relatively robust birds, chickens are not immune to illness or disease. In fact, you may have noticed that your chickens have an ability to hide it away from you.
This is exactly why so many chickens can be sprightly one day, before being found cold and stiff the next morning.
Whether it is a sudden shock causing a heart attack or an inherent weakness that ultimately catches up with them; death is one sad and unfortunate occurrence of keeping these birds.
Let us now take a closer look at disposal of a dead chicken. We will also explain the importance of finding out the cause of death, how to do do before addressing some other questions that you may have.
So, be sure to keep on reading to get all the information you need around this morbid, yet important subject.
How Do You Dispose Of A Dead Chicken?
When it comes to the disposal of your chickens body, a lot will depend on where you live. However, there are some things to be aware of and that you definitely should not do.
While you may have heard or have even considered eating your chicken, this is not advised.
The meat could easily be contaminated by disease, which would put your own and your families health at risk for the sake of one small meal.
The same is true even if the chicken has ben euthanized by a vet. And other animals should not eat the carcass either.
Birds that have been killed by predators are likely carrying an infection; transmitted during the kill via their claws, teeth and saliva.
Beyond this, it does not come recommended to bury your chicken either.
In a lot of countries, there are strict rules and even laws in place that prevent you from being able to bury a dead chicken; even if it is on your property.
What’s more, buried chickens can easily attract predators – both to dig out the dead bird and towards your property where you are keeping your other birds.
In fact, foxes have been known to be able to smell and even dig up to 45cm/ 17 inches deep to get food below ground.
Watching a fox do this is not a sight anyone wants to have.
So, what can you do?
The most recommended way to dispose of your dead chicken is through incinerations at a registered premises.
Your local authorities/council will be able to provide you details with where they are, and what is typically invovled.
Otherwise local poultry organizations may be able to help you, but this may incur a charge.
Your only other legal option is to take your dead bird to the vet (ringing ahead of course!)
They will be able to dispose of your chicken on your behalf, and usually only charge a small fee to do so.
Finding Out The Cause Of Death
Finding out the cause of death is one of the most recommended things to do following any death. It can help you identify if this was a once off or if you may need to take action to better support your birds.
To find out the cause of death, the best thing to do is to take the dead chicken to a vet.
They will be able to perform a thorough post-mortem examination.
These can be particularly useful, especially if you suspect a disease is going through your flock.
In this instance, you would want to make sure the rest of your birds are healthy. Especially if you plan to introduce new birds into the flock.
From there, be mindful of your emotions.
Feeling guilt is the natural reaction, even if there is little you could have done to prevent it. Yet, a little guilt can be useful if it helps you to protect and better care for your flock going forward.
Think about how you look after your chickens; is there anything in particular that could have allowed your birds to succumb to illness? For instance, any stressful situations that could have been avoided?
Regularly checking your chickens and the coop is one of the best proactive things you can do as a chicken keeper. You may be able to identify any problems before any fatalities, and may even prevent the shocking discovery of a successful predator raid on your flock.
Ultimately, if this were to happen, all you can do is learn from any mistakes that were made, and do all you can to protect your flock and better protect them going forward.
Will Chickens Peck At A Dead Chicken?
Chickens will likely peck at a dead chicken, so it is important that you quickly remove any dead birds from the coop.
This is especially true and likely if a chicken was to draw blood; as chickens are instinctively attracted towards it.
This is how cannibalism can begin in a flock; even a minor injury to a bird can initiate it. This is why you need to be so careful with injuries, and ensure that there is nowhere in the cage that can harm/injure or cause a bird get hurt and bleed.
Any chicken that tears its skin or bleeds can become a target to more socially dominant and cannibalistic chickens.
The same applies to dead chickens, and curiosity may soon take over – especially if they are hungry.
So – if you do notice a chicken has died, do all you can to remove them from the coop as quickly as you can.
Chickens that learn to peck other birds, alive or otherwise, will need to be quickly rectified as it can become an ongoing issue and a regular habit.
Can Chickens Play Dead?
Chickens can indeed play dead, according to a number of reports from chicken keepers.
There are countless cases of keepers seeing their birds lying on the ground, assuming the worst, only to find they later sprung to life when the perceived danger had gone.
This has observed in chickens attacked by dogs, and other predators. Equally, chickens have been known to play dead to keep a rooster away.
One potential other possibility is that chickens possess a nerve on the back of their necks, that if pinched, will paralyze them for a couple of minutes.
These are things that you should take into account before you decide to quickly dispose of your birds body.
Its always best to ensure that they are dead before deciding on any approach.
Things To Remember
- Chickens can die quickly without any obvious or explicit reason,
- Look for any potential causes of death, or proactive measures you can take to prevent further losses and better protect your birds going forward,
- Culling a chicken is better than letting a bird continue to suffer, consulting a vet to do so via euthanasia is advised,
- Never eat a chicken that has died, unless you have purposely slaughtered it for its meat and are sure it is wholesome,
- Check with your local authorities/ your vet for advice on disposal,
- Ensure the rest of your flock is healthy and not suffering with disease before introducing new birds to the flock.
Unfortunately, loosing chickens is all part of keeping them; even though it is very sad when it comes around.
For this reason, there is nothing wrong with feeling down when they pass, and it can be hard not to blame yourself if the death was a consequence of one of your actions.
Still, if you learn from any mistakes and care for your chickens as best as you can, then you will be sure to give the rest of your flock, and any future birds you may decide to get, a fulfilling life and a good home.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.