Urban Chickens:Death and Disposal


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.

urban chicken

urban chicken

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.





10 responses »

  1. Good stuff to consider. I too was unprepared when I had the first death in my flock. And because it was below zero the entire week, we couldn’t bury the poor girl! I put her in a secure plastic bin outside in the shade, and finally called a pet cremation service to pick her up before she defrosted. And then there was that time a fox killed 9 of my 12 chickens on a 100-degree morning… 😦

  2. For those who want to handle such things this way that’s fine of course. But folks should keep in mind that it is not necessary to take a chicken to a vet to be euthanized. This is a simple homesteading skill (albeit a very unpleasant one) that anyone can learn. Transporting a suffering bird to a vet for something that any homesteader can easily handle themselves is arguably not a sustainable practice. Neither is it necessary to bury them, although that is certainly an option.

    Just thought I’d put this out there to help people understand their options when this happens. Thanks.

    • I appreciate your comments. Living outside of city limits certainly offers up many other options. In most cities that allow backyard chickens, people are not allowed to put down their chickens. Some veterinary clinics are picking up on this and offering these services to urban dwellers.

  3. There are many areas that still don’t have vets to deal with chickens, sadly. We have 2 hens buried 4′ down under our veggie bed. I wrapped them in a pillowcase, and we took acre of it. It gave me some comfort knowing they spent a lot of enjoyable time there when they were alive. Another one went into the actual trash, in a bag, as there was stuff going on, and we didn’t want to handle her at all. I won’t go into the details, but it was bad…

    • Yes… there are still areas where vets really don’t deal with chickens. I like your idea of using the veggie bed. Our hens spend many days happily scratching in the garden for bugs and grubs… and then creating a spot for dust baths. That would be a very fitting final resting place.

  4. Nice post and definitely not something that most folks plan for. I guess we are kind of heartless because we put them out in the neighboring field and let the coyotes have them. Waaay out in the field.

    • Thank you. If I lived out in the country… I would be tempted to do that, but we are the only ones in our neighborhood with chickens so folks would know it was us. When our chickens die, we bundle them up and take them out to the county landfill.

  5. Such good information. We are planning on getting our laying flock started soon, but never really thought about of the end of life issue. We do plan on having meat chickens also, but then, that’s a horse of a different color! Thanks for the head’s up and we will consider our options before the inevitable happens.

    • We have (unfortunately) had to deal with this issue. The first time it was a surprise and we were quite sure what to do. Spent quite a bit of time looking up information to find out what could be done. And after all of that research… a blog post idea was born. Good luck when you get your chickens!

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