As urban chickens keepers, there is a universal issue that we will all face at one time or another. A dead chicken. This raises the question, “What do we do?” While there are several options, it is generally best to have a plan in place before this event happens. Keep in mind that city and county ordinances may dictate what can and cannot be done.
If your chicken is ill or wounded with no chance of recovery, consider taking it to your veterinarian. Schedule an appointment for him to euthanize your bird. This allows you time to come to terms with the inevitable and provides you with mental relief knowing that your chicken will no longer be in pain. Once your pet has passed, you can have the vet dispose of the remains. They may also offer you the option of cremation.
If it was a beloved pet, you may wish to bury it in your backyard. Select a spot that is away from the chicken coop, your house, and natural water sources (such as a pond or stream to reduce the risk of contamination). Perhaps under the shade of tree or near a flowering shrub? Given that it is not uncommon for city dwellers to bury their four-legged pets, burying a chicken is not out of the question. Just be sure that you bury the recently deceased at least 2′ deep (to help prevent neighborhood dogs, raccoons, or foxes from digging up your pet). While it is not necessary, you may wish to cover the chicken with lime as it will help reduce the odor and chances of attracting a predator to the remains.
Use caution when handling the remains as death may have been caused by illness.
- Wear disposable gloves
- Wear a respirator or disposable mask
- Wash the clothes worn (while handling the remains) immediately after burial
- Follow good hygiene (specifically washing your hands)
- See a doctor if you feel ill after handling the remains
If you are uncertain about how to dispose of the remains, consult with your city’s municipal code. If your city does not cover how to deal with a dead animal, review your county landfill ordinances as they typically allow animal carcasses. Thoroughly read the policies as they may require double or triple bagging the remains.
One thing to keep in mind is that if it will be a few days before the remains can be dealt with is the odor. Consider wrapping the remains in an air-tight plastic bag and/or container and placing them in a refrigerated area or freezer until such time as they can be buried or sent off to the landfill.
While none of us like the thought of losing a chicken from our flock, it will happen. Find out what is allowed by your local ordinances as that may dictate what you can or can’t do. By knowing your options, you can make a decision that works best for your situation.