You are responsible for your chickens’ health and welfare, including ensuring that they have a humane death when the time comes.
Ensuring a humane death requires that the method used results in rapid death, or loss of consciousness without pain, suffering, or distress followed by death.
The AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals: 2020 Edition state that ‘euthanasia methods should be chosen based on the welfare of the bird, human safety, skill and training of personnel, availability of equipment, and the ability to adequately restrain the bird’. For more information, see the full guidelines which are available here.
Chickens must always be handled quietly and gently to help keep them calm and minimise the risk of them experiencing stress. See this article for more information on low-stress and safe techniques for handling your chickens.
How should backyard chickens be euthanased if they are sick or injured?
When chickens are killed because it is in the interest of their welfare, such as if they are sick or injured, it is usually termed ‘euthanasia’. In the unfortunate event one of your chickens gets severely sick or injured, you may have to decide whether euthanasia is the best option.
Backyard chickens should always be euthanased by a veterinarian.
Note that it can be very stressful for your chicken to be separated from their flock mates and transported. So, you may want to consider asking your vet to do a house call for the euthanasia if possible, so that your chicken can stay with their flock mates in the place they feel calm and comfortable.
If the need for euthanasia is very urgent and getting your vet out to your home or your chicken to the vet promptly is not possible, you should phone the vet for advice on what to do.
Remember overall it is your responsibility to protect the welfare of your hens, which includes ensuring they are euthanased or killed humanely. It is also important to be aware of your relevant state or territory, and local requirements for the keeping, killing, and disposing of backyard hens. Failure to comply with animal welfare legislation and regulations can result in prosecution and fines.