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Is there a lower age limit to be able to shecht (slaughter animals in a kosher manner)? If so, what is it?

Related question: Is age a disqualification for Shechita? (upper age limit)

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The lechatchila age minimum, according to Simlah Chadasha (1:30), is 18 years old, because at that point a person is a "בר דעת" and knows how to be careful with things. This minimum can be bypassed if a person is an exceptional ירא שמים, and is considered to be a גדול (adult; see footnote for technical definition).

What would happen if a minor* slaughtered?

  1. A child that has not mastered fine motor skills: This child's שחיטה is not kosher, even if he knows all of הלכות שחיטה and and older person who was observing saw that he did not make a mistake in the slaughter.
  2. A child that has mastered fine motor skills: This child's שחיטה is kosher b'dieved, but only if an older person observed from beginning to end. This category is different from the first in that he is considered to be a "בר זביחה," someone who is able to slaughter; however, this is still not lechatchila, because he could still make a mistake and the observer may not notice.
  3. A child that knows הל' שחיטה and has fine motor skills: This child may slaughter lechatchila, under supervision. If he was not supervised, then the meat is אסור (forbidden), because most actions of children are not done properly, and because he is a קטן (minor), then we can not trust his testimony (עד אחד נאמן באיסורים).

*"Minor" (קטן) for these purposes is defined as younger than 13 years and one day for boys; for women, younger than 12 and a day.

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Just to clarify @Shokhet's answer - there is no lower age limit, as long as the child can slaughter and he is being supervised. This is found in Shulchan Aruch 1:5. The Rema there comments that there are those who are machmir not to give a kabala for shchita to someone under 18, just like the Simlah Chadasha says.

The Shulchan Aruch's language is "יודע לאמן ידיו לשחוט" which is more accurately translated as - the child's hands have mastered the skill to shecht, and not the more general - "mastered fine motor skills" as @Shokhet translated.

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