Grit Blogs > Lessons Learned From the Flock

Why I Include Killing Chickens in My “Getting Chickens” Workshops

I’ve killed a chicken. Well, actually, I haven’t done the killing, I stood by while my husband and son did the deed but I was there to read the instructions out loud, watch, and to record the event.

A tiny but very loud rooster

You see, I teach local workshops on starting and maintaining backyard chicken flocks. And there are three reasons why I decided to include a section on culling a chicken in my workshops.

1.       Although I don’t raise my chickens for meat, I acknowledge that there are people who do eat their birds. And good for them, it’s a healthier option than eating some of the meat that can be found in grocery stores. (Heck, my mom tells me stories of going to the backyard and picking out the bird that would be used for Sunday dinner.)

I realize how silly it is to have good birds with clean meat living in our backyard while I go to the grocery store to buy a pre-packaged chicken. My goal is to eventually eat one of our flock, it’s not something that going to happen today and probably not even tomorrow, but perhaps it will someday.

2.       One word roosters. When you have a backyard flock, no matter how careful you are, roosters are bound to get in the mix. Sometimes they come in as wrongly identified pullets. Sometimes, they arrive through an incubation hatch. Sometimes people get roosters mistakenly thinking that they “can’t be that bad” with regard to noise. And then there are those who think that you need a rooster in order to get eggs (don’t laugh, I get asked about that at *every* workshop.)

Although a self-sustaining flock needs roosters for protection and to perpetuate the flock (you need a rooster to get chicks, the eggs will come regardless) a backyard flock does not need a rooster. Especially if you have neighbors nearby.  

Roosters are loud. They don’t just crow at the crack of dawn like the ones in the cartoons, they crow incessantly during the day and night. A rooster’s job is to alert the flock of danger and it doesn’t matter to them when they sense that danger. If it’s 2am then so be it, that bad boy is going to crow for all he is worth.  While the flock may appreciate this behavior, trust me on this one, your neighbors won’t.

Not everyone can re-home a pesky rooster (and besides being loud, some of them can also be very violent) and so I teach people how to humanely cull roosters. I’d rather teach people that skill then see roosters set free to fend for themselves or drowned in our local river.

3.       Lastly, chickens can get ill. They can come down with diseases and they can get sometimes fatal conditions. Although I keep a first-aid box with supplies handy and have a basic understanding of flock medical management. I’m not sure, I could justify bringing a chicken to the vets.  I’ve heard some incredible stories of people paying hundreds and hundreds of dollars to save a bird and all I can say is that if they have the resources to do that, then God bless you. I am not in that situation.

 With respect to sick birds, I’m certainly not suggesting that culling a bird be your first option but you should know how to put an animal out of its misery, if you’ve done everything you could and your bird is still suffering.

For these reasons, I not only learned how to kill a bird, but I took detailed notes on the procedure, so I could teach others who wish to keep a backyard flock.

In another post, I’ll report the specific procedure I teach to humanely cull a chicken.


I write about lessons learned living with children and chickens in New Hampshire. You can follow our family's stories at my blog: Lessons Learned From the Flock.