My sister raised a new batch of hens this past September and I was with her and my nephew when they picked out new chicks. We brought them home and noticed one of the baby chicks had a slightly crooked beak – like millimeters off. It didn’t seem like a big deal… at the time anyway.

Weeks went by and the crooked beak became much worse. We would talk over the phone and she would describe how the hen couldn’t eat very well. She had been talking with a woman about possibly trimming the beak back, which is more successful when the crookedness is slight.

This poor chicken looked like a freak of nature, honestly. When I saw her, it took my brain a minute to register the deformity of her beak. I have never seen anything like it.

My sister contemplated killing the chicken for several weeks and reluctantly called me over to do the deed. It became clear the hen was going to die of malnourishment at some point, which seemed a lot more inhumane. When I picked up the hen, her eyes were already closed over and I was surprised at how little she weighted compared to her flock mates.

Jay and I took her around the corner of the house (so the other hens wouldn’t see, which I know is kind of stupid, but I do it anyway).  We slowly turned her upside down so she would become disoriented and somewhat pass out. I then cut her throat. In my experience, chickens pass out pretty quickly as the blood drains. They are essentially asleep as their body kicks a bit before the life is gone.

It was weird to process this hen though because she was already so weak and frail. Her body didn’t kick at all, making it difficult to determine whether she was even dead. In hindsight, I think she went just as quickly as others. But it was a sad butchering because she was in such a bad state.

I’m glad she’s out of her misery. And I have learned, yet again, how important it is to look for the best, most robustly healthy chicks. My sister’s flock now consists of a Naked-Neck (very funny looking!), a Plymouth Rock, and a White Leghorn.

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Written by Renee Wilkinson