When A Chicken Dies

by Jenny Peterson on January 21, 2014

in Urban Farming

Yeah, so….my brother-in-law’s dog, Tosca, came to visit yesterday and she wound up killing one of our chickens, a beautiful and sweet natured girl named Omelette. I’m not at all upset with Tosca — this was human error in that:

  1. Our chickens were out free-ranging
  2. Tosca was not on a leash and is not used to chickens
  3. All the humans involved turned their backs for a few minutes & didn’t pay attention
DSC_0046 Omelette, as a baby last Easter ’13

So, the Perfect Storm for chicken attacks was created and Tosca took her opportunity. Poor Omelette went pretty quickly with a broken neck, but it was traumatizing for everyone (dogs that were being yelled at, chickens that were freaked out and humans who were feeling guilty and AWFUL). Between yesterday and today we’ve learned a lot about what to do when your chicken dies, since this was our first chicken casualty. Here’s our advice if you are new to raising chickens, too:

Have a plan. You are responsible for your chickens, so when a guest brings another animal into your yard, you’ll need to take control. If it’s a planned visit, keep your flock safely in the run or the coop if possible. If that’s not possible or the visit happens suddenly and you can’t get your chickens in, then make sure the visiting animal is on a leash or kept inside the house. It’s too tempting for a new dog or cat to leave those chickens alone.

Decide what you want to do with the chicken’s body. Yes, I know this is unpleasant, but the fact of the matter is that you have a dead chicken and you need to make some decisions. If you want to use the chicken’s meat, check this link to information on how to do that. You’ll have to do it pretty quickly — no waiting around. If your chicken dies of natural causes, you probably don’t want to eat it — you don’t know what  kind of possible disease she could have. We opted to bury Omelette.

Choose your burial place wisely. If you opt for burial, choose a spot in your perennial garden or out in your yard. Avoid burying in the vegetable garden or by your compost pile, as the risk of cross-contamination is too great. Be sure to dig a hole deep enough (2′ or so) so that other animals can’t dig her up. The last thing you want to see is your poor chicken’s body parts strewn around your yard.

Don’t get angry with the dog. If your chicken met her Maker because your dog or someone else’s attacked her, don’t blame the dog. They’re just doing their dog thing, and in some breeds like Retrievers, the instinct to grab the prey and bring them back is very strong. It’s your job to supervise and train your dog, so if your dog goes after the chickens, please don’t hit him or her. Of course, they need to learn what acceptable behavior is, and here are some tips to help you train your dog to behave around the chickens.

We buried Omelette way in the back of our 1-acre property, and some of our friends came to say goodbye. I know it sounds goofy because she’s *just* a chicken, but we love our chickens and we felt very badly about how she died. Our friend, Todd, and my fiance, Brett, are both Jewish, so we did a Jewish custom of having everyone there put 3 shovels of soil on top of her body before filling the hole completely up.

IMG_5846

And no grave is complete without a marker:

IMG_5847

 

So rest in peace, Omelette — we will miss your pretty blue eggs and your sweet disposition, and we promise we’ve learned our lesson about dogs and chickens.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate S. January 22, 2014 at 9:45 am

Great post. This is a reality for many people keeping chickens that doesn’t get talked about very much. Thanks!

Terri Curtis January 22, 2014 at 2:16 pm

We will all miss this sweet girl. Thank you for letting me be a part of saying goodbye.

Julie Gomoll January 25, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Not long before I sold the Greenway house, Mr. Pants got out and killed one of the neighbor’s chickens in full view of their 4 kids. They were really understanding about it (their chickens occasionally roam the hood), but it was pretty traumatic for everyone. Well, for everyone except Mr. Pants, of course. He brought it home and ate the whole thing.

Sorry about Omelette.

Jenny Peterson January 27, 2014 at 8:53 am

I’m sure Mr. Pants was having a blast! I’m glad your neighbors understood, Julie — many people don’t, and they blame the dog. A dog is a dog.

Thanks for the condolences, everyone — it may seem odd to get sad over a chicken dying, but every one of our girls is named and has their own little personality. They are so fun to have around, and we really love them.

Vicki @ Playin' Outside April 8, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Sorry to hear about Omelette – even if I’m several months late too late to sit shiva with you. A loss of someone you’ve cared for is never trivial.

Lesley @ Earthora April 28, 2014 at 3:29 am

This is quite spooky, I was telling my husband about your Omelette the other day, we both love animals and he agreed it was very sad. I wanted to show him the actual story, but I visit so many websites in a day I couldn’t find remember where I saw it.

However I found myself back at your blog today because of another article you wrote, explaining the different egg labelling at the supermarket. This is something that always confuses me (so thank you for clarifying). At the end was the link to this article, I couldn’t believe I’d found my way back. I was able to show him the picture of Omelette as a chick. She was so cute.

We’ve learnt our lesson from this, for the happy day we get our own chickens. We’ll be extra vigilant, thanks to reading your story.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

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