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Is it Safe to eat Chickens after.......

 
pollinator
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I'm wondering about other people's experiences and opinions about some scenarios that seem dicey to me.    I have a backyard flock (11 layers) on 2/3 acre of mixed environments,  across the street from a 3-acre wood which leads to a wooded pond, all of which is surrounded by dense city life (houses and traffic).

In the 3 years I've been keeping chickens I've had some predator activity and mysterious deaths and wasn't sure whether to butcher them for eating so I tossed them - what a waste!   I know people eat some roadkill, assuming they appear fresh and were likely just hit by a vehicle.  

Here are some other chicken death scenarios:

1)  A robust and apparently healthy chicken appeared fine and active at noon, but found dead lying against the fence with no apparent injuries.  No evidence of feathers or blood anywhere in the yard - all the other chickens were fine.   My guess is a predator scared it into the fence and it died of a heart attack?   I did not eat that one because it was my first year and I was traumatized but in the future I probably will

2)  A fox (I assume because I have seen them wandering around the woods and once in my yard) around 3pm (I heard the commotion),   chased two chickens under a bush, leaving a trail of feathers.  One chicken was beheaded, the other showed no signs of injury.   Again, a heart attack for the second one?  

3)  An unknown predator got into the fenced and aviary netting covered yard and killed 6 juveniles  (about 10 weeks old), scattered around with various injuries, one was beheaded.   No evidence of what or how it got in and out of the yard except a small triangle of open space at the upper corner of the door (6 ft high)  

So in general,  I wonder if a wild animal that has created wounds and/or beheaded a chicken,  could transmit rabies or other nasties into the bloodstream of the injured chicken - through the bite and ripping of skin,  therefore making it risky for humans to eat?    And in the apparent death of an otherwise healthy chicken by heart attack, would you eat it?
 
pollinator
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Short answer is: it depends.

For me it depends on what the critter that caused the damage was and how recently it happened.  I want to make sure the meat is able to be well bled. It partly depends on the damage level and sometimes which bird it is.

Neighbors dog got a chicken. We found it right after it happened. We ate it.

Last year a raccoon attack got 10 meat birds.  There were 3 severely wounded birds that we killed, carefully trimmed and used.  The others sadly went to waste.

A chicken died in the storms a couple days ago.  Didnt find her for 2 days, did not eat.

Possum got one of my favorites a couple weeks ago.  (I try to never have favorites, but not always successful.) we found her a couple hours afterward.  Did not eat. She is one of the few I have cried over.

A rooster was found dead after a storm, but I had seen him walking around fine right before the storm hit. Ate him.

Like I said, it depends. When I use them after one of these events, I make sure they are very well cooked.

I hope you dont have to decide anytime soon!

 
pollinator
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if I only had 1 chicken and I found it dead, and I was starving, and I could still bled out the blood I would eat it.
But if I am not starving and I can easily reach into the coop and select one of the other  10 or so chickens. Then I would just let the 10lbs of feed that I used to get a 5lbs bird go down the drain.
Why try to save $3 and get sick or something for no reason. I would probably get sick just from me thinking that I might get sick, that extra level of stress.

I would rather feed that animal to my dog, than to myself/kids/etc
 
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I raised chickens for years, I never would eat a chicken that I didn't
kill myself on the farm.

Health departments have done studies of bacteria on chicken. The bacteria
doubles every hour meaning 1000 in an hour is 2000 then 4000 then 8000
etc.

We always hot dipped(boiling water) the fresh kills to easily remove the feathers only, it does
not kill any bacteria. Then cleaned and put in an ice bath.

 
gardener
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There are a couple of primary concerns with eating something you did not kill yourself.

1.  If you do not know what killed the bird, so you may be unwittingly ingesting a pathogen that doomed the poor bird.

2.  It's important to bleed out any animal that you butcher.  Cattle, hogs, goat . . . and certainly birds . . . we hang them upside-down and let gravity drain the blood from their system.  With chickens, the most common way of butchering them involves dropping them head-first down into some sort of funnel or cone, so that when their neck is cut, the heart is still beating and the blood is pumped downward to drain away quickly.  Most the the bird's blood is gone before the heart beats it's final beat.  While this may sound a bit brutal, it's about as human a way to butcher as any other.  There is little to no pain for the bird and they die very quickly.  If you do not drain the blood, it quickly coagulates in their blood vessels.  Then you can never get it drained properly.

3.  As mentioned above, bacteria quickly multiplies in the warm body of a dead animal.  Considering that the digestive tract of an animal contains billions and billions of microbes, you can see why they will quickly bloat and even explode if they die and are not quickly processed.  As someone who has seen sheep explode (I"m not kidding -- when a sheep dies, it will bloat up like a balloon in hours), you just don't want to mess with that.

4.  Related to point #3, if the cause of death is something that punctured the intestines or digestive tract in any way, it's easy for cross-contamination to spoil the meat.  This is always a concern with hunting game birds or even larger animals.  If a bullet/buck shot pierces the intestines or stomach, you'll get that bacteria spread through the animal.  You've got to be careful of that.

Considering that chicken is relatively inexpensive, be smart and dispose of the bird.  I suppose you could gut it, cook it well, and feed it to the dogs.  But I wouldn't feed it to my family.  The cost of the co-pay for the hospital visit is more expensive than just buying a couple of fresh and safely butchered birds at the store.
 
Susan Pruitt
pollinator
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These are really helpful and detailed answers - thanks guys!    The growth rate of bacteria is astounding, and I hadn't thought about the importance of being able to bleed them out so both of those pretty much rule out wanting to eat any injured birds.  

Is it common for chickens to be "scared to death" ?  

 
L Goodwyn
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Yes, Chickens will die in storm events -lightning, etc. They will overcrowd where they roost and die in these
events. I have lost many chickens to micro burst events.
 
gardener
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I disagree with just about everybody in this thread. ;-)  Lots of people have been taught commercial food safety handling best practices and cultural/farm/game-handling practices  for optimal meat flavor and texture and it is possible under such commercial/cultural influences with the best good will in the world to not always draw the finest distinctions or between "safe" and "best flavor" or between "safe" and "best texture."

We cook meat to destroy pathogens and bacteria.  If you cook those chickens properly, they could be half-rotten or full of predator-pathogens (which I am not certain are even a thing) and they might taste disgusting but they would not be in my opinion be unsafe to eat.  People used to "age" small game birds until the skin would fall off and the viscera would fall out (rotten to the core by modern sensibilities, certainly full of more bacteria than anything we are discussing) just to improve, by the cultural standards of the age, the flavor of them.  Of course, lives back then were nasty brutish and short, and food safety not dreamed of; I'm not saying to do that.  I'm merely saying that an hour on the ground in your garden doesn't even begin to compare.  

If you find a dead animal while the body heat is still in it or even just while it is still unbloated and it still smells fine, and you butcher it quickly and wash it well and cook it thoroughly, I don't believe there is any risk to speak of.  Indeed, I'd rather eat that bird than any random chlorinated bird bought on a foam tray.  
 
L Goodwyn
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Dan , I disagree

Commercial poultry is is NOT chlorinated it is Irradiated to kill bacteria .

I just wanted to add . If your want to build your poultry community keep at least 1 banty(bantam hen) 1 banty rooster (bantam rooster) seperated from your chickens.
to gestate your eggs. Bantys will sit on a door knob till it hatches . Banty roosters are aggressive - be aware.
 
Dan Boone
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L Goodwyn wrote:Dan , I disagree

Commercial poultry is is NOT chlorinated



My understanding is to the contrary. I offer in evidence this document from the United States Congressional Research Service (or just google "Chlorinated Chicken") talking about why US chicken is prohibited from export to the EU:


In January 2009, the outgoing Bush Administration escalated a long-running dispute with the European Union (EU) over its refusal to accept U.S. imports of poultry treated with antimicrobial
rinses. ... Because most U.S. poultry processors use PRTs [the rinses], U.S. poultry meat has effectively been prohibited from entering the EU countries, where the practice is not acceptable.  

...

In 2002, the United States asked the EU to approve the use of four PRTs on poultry destined for export there: chlorine dioxide, acidified sodium chlorate, trisodium phosphate, and peroxyacids. Each is approved for use in poultry processing by both USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). More specifically, after birds are slaughtered and the carcasses eviscerated, a USDA inspector examines them for fecal contamination or other problems. They then enter a final washing procedure, where the PRTs may be applied, either as a spray or wash on the processing line, or as an addition to the water used to lower the carcass temperature (the chiller tank). Federal regulations further specify PRT concentration levels and other usage requirements.

 
pollinator
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My rule of thumb is to either be the one who kills the bird, or see it happen (within reason). If I see a predator running away and there's a fresh, warm kill then I will probably step in. We had a young Orpington rooster get mauled by a hawk, who tried to carry him off and dropped him because he was too heavy. When we found him he was sitting on the side of the road, looking dazed but upright. It was only after I picked him up and started looking closely that I saw his neck ripped completely open, with all the hoses and wiring exposed. I had to finish the job and he went in the roasting pan...a real pity because he wasn't even full grown.
 
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Dan Boone wrote:...  If you cook those chickens properly, they could be half-rotten or full of predator-pathogens (which I am not certain are even a thing) and they might taste disgusting but they would not be in my opinion be unsafe to eat.  ...



That's how you get food poisoning. The bacteria bay be dead, but some toxins survive. Staphylococcus aureus is an example, diverse mycotoxins as well. Clostridium perfringens for example survives cooking, and could grow again if left for a few hours.
 
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