Author’s Note: The following post contains information about killing homestead animals that some may find graphic or offensive. Read with discretion.
The first time I chose to kill something on the homestead came more than two years after I started keeping animals. Up to that point, I found ways around it. I gave away chickens that were past their prime. I ignored predators, or practiced “catch and release.” I actively avoided pulling the trigger. But if you are going to raise animals on your homestead, sooner or later you’ll have to kill something. My first kill was a chicken-eating possum.
I’ve killed many more animals since that first possum. In some ways it gets easier, in other ways I still feel weird about it. Killing an animal is an act that should never be taken lightly, so let me offer these considerations before anyone adds animals to his homestead:
When you have animals, eventually death will come.
Remember that first possum? He got six of my hens before I got him. Of those six, he only bothered to eat three. The others he left for me to find without heads or feet. I didn’t ask for that. I was raising pretty hens for eggs. They were well fenced and well cared for. Before I ever had to make a choice about how my animals should die – whether by my hand, someone else’s, or natural causes – Mr. Possum came along and left a bloodbath in his wake. Before you add one animal to your homestead, consider how that animal should die and be prepared for matters to be taken out of your hands.
Homestead animals aren’t pets.
It’s a nice idea – having a lot of different pets around the house and yard – but homesteading is about meat and eggs and milk and wool. Homesteading with animals is meant to provide you with more than just companionship (though non-meat animals do make good pets!). Chickens past their prime can’t earn their keep with eggs. It’s never a good idea to keep aggressive rabbits or quail. Animals that take more than they give need to be culled. How prepared are you to cull an animal that can’t earn its feed?
Even in death, be prepared to show care and respect.
I’ve killed predators and I’ve culled my own homestead animals, but in every case I follow the same two rules:
- Weigh the good with the bad. No animal should die just because it lives (Sorry, arachnophobes!). Have a good reason for killing, and consider the impact you’re having on the rest of your homestead. For example, rat snakes are excellent at controlling mice and rats. Perhaps you could simply relocate the egg-eater?
- Every animal deserves a quick, clean death. There is never a good reason to allow an animal to suffer once you’ve decided to kill it. And if you don’t know how to give an animal a quick death, look it up before you try. A quick Google search turned up this excellent article on slaughtering backyard chickens.
So what about your homestead? Are you ready for chickens or rabbits? When you do decide it’s time for animals, be sure you’ve thought through the entire process. And if you need any help knowing how to get started, feel free to drop us a line!