How To Euthanize A Chicken With Medication


What do you give to a Chicken with a disease? A lethal injection of course. In this post, I’ll explain how to Euthanize a chicken with medication.

The top reason for pets being surrendered to shelters is because the pet owner moved and couldn’t take their pets with them. Many people want to know if there are humane things they can do to kill their pet(s). Yes, there are more humane options than Euthanizing.


This information on how to euthanize your chicken at home is presented to you as an option if you cannot afford to take your bird to the veterinarian to have it done. CO2 can be used or you can make your own with baking soda and vinegar (See Disclaimer). Be sure to scroll down to see things you should consider before euthanizing and read all of the information before you begin. I do have a friend who used this method successfully. She had to euthanize her chicken and could not afford to do it any other way. Her bird was suffering from tumors which spread throughout it’s body and caused her chicken severe pain. Chickens are good at hiding pain but when it got to the point the poor little hen couldn’t walk at all anymore she made the decision to put her down but wanted her chicken friend to pass quietly and painlessly. She told me it was hard to do but knew she was doing the right thing. Scroll down to see more…

The American Veterinary Medical Association has approved a method of using Carbon Dioxide (CO2) to euthanise small animals weighing less than 2 lbs. Carbon dioxide can be used as an analgesic pain reliever at 7.5% and can be used as an anesthetic which causes rapid loss of consciousness with no struggling or distress at 30%-40%. Drowning, freezing or poisoning a chicken is NOT a humane way for them to die as they will suffer a horrible death.
​At high concentrations 80% or higher CO2 results in almost instant death but can cause painful eye irritation and respiratory tract irritation if high levels are used right away. It is important to use the analgesic concentration (7.5%) prior to high concentrations to reduce suffering. 
The AVMA states the flow of CO2 can be regulated adequately only by using compressed CO2, only the use of CO2 cylinders is approved.
Homemade CO2 Chamber Using Vinegar and Baking Soda Euthanize Birds

This method, being adapted for home use, does not require the use of compressed gas cylinders. The AVMA Panel on Euthanasia has not been asked to approve the home made CO2 chamber method featured in the photo, and no approval is implied.
“The AVMA approves the use of CO2 for euthanasia in most small animals including amphibians, birds, reptiles, rodents, and other small mammals weighing less than two pounds (1 kg). Some amphibians and reptiles, however, may breathe too slowly or be able to hold their breath for long periods of time making other methods of euthanasia preferable. Also some burrowing and diving animals (such as some species of rabbit and marine mammals) have prolonged survival times when exposed to CO2. Also excluded from AVMA approval would be all cats and dogs, even small ones. The following method has been tested only on rodents and is not recommended for use on animals or birds weighing more than 2 lbs”. If you decide to use this home method do so at your own risk and discretion. Be sure to practice putting the bird in the chamber and all steps several times before you attempt to perform this procedure.
​ Scroll down to see things you need to consider before euthanizing your bird or other small animal.Things you may need to do if you have used CO2 as an analgesic to put your bird to sleep so you could perform a surgical procedure plus best buys.


  1. Is your bird’s condition so severe that it causes the bird constant pain?
  2. CO2 has the ability to be used as an analgesic pain reliever at low levels, cause loss of consciousness at medium levels, and cause death at high levels.
  3. CO2 is a sure thing very reliable in how it affects birds and small animals
  4. Use safety precautions to protect yourself when performing this procedure (wear a face mask, gloves, and apron)
  5. ​Once you use high levels of CO2 on the bird, the effects are irreversible. There is no going back from there, so be sure this is something you want to do. 
  6. Do not euthanize a bird with CO2 that you plan to eat.
  7. Euthanizing a pet can be hard on you, and anyone observing it can suffer emotionally with long lasting effects.
  8. Be sure to keep CO2 in marked containers and store it according to package directions. Do not use this on humans, ever.
  9. Use only if there is no other alternative, and be sure to consider your bird’s species, age, and health status.
  10. Check, double check and triple check to make sure all equipment is in working order.
  11. Prepare in advance as to how you will dispose of the body. Burying your bird in the ground may give you some peace of mind, but it can backfire by drawing predators to your property. If an animal (like your dog or cat) digs up the body and consumes it, there could be detrimental effects, such as death. Predators digging up your bird’s remains really take away from the peace you get from a little funeral. It is much safer and better to burn the birds’ remains in a funeral pyre (usually in a burn barrel) and then bury the ashes for the funeral.


If carbon dioxide concentration is too high birds may react by seizing, flapping their wings, and other frantic movements as their body tissues are being damaged. It is recommended to start with a lower concentration and once the bird is unconscious raise the level to euthanize. The use of Carbon Monoxide (CO) causes more involuntary movement than Carbon Dioxide (CO2) does.
“Carbon dioxide may invoke involuntary (unconscious) motor activity in birds, such as flapping of the wings or other terminal movements, which can damage tissues and be disconcerting for observers.248,270 Slower induction of euthanasia in hypercapnic atmospheres reduces the severity of convulsions after loss of consciousness.204,205 Death normally occurs within minutes, depending on the species and the concentration of CO2 present in the closed chamber” (AMVA).


  1. ​”Inhaled anesthetics are particularly useful for euthanasia of smaller animals (< 7 kg [15.4 lb]) or for animals in which venipuncture may be difficult.
  2. Inhaled anesthetics can be administered by several different methods depending on the circumstances and equipment available (eg, face mask, open drop where the animal is not permitted to directly contact the anesthetic liquid, precision vaporizer, rigid or nonrigid containers).
  3. Halothane, enflurane, isoflurane, sevoflurane, desflurane, methoxyflurane, and N2 O are nonflammable and nonexplosive under usual clinical conditions.
  4. Inhaled anesthetics can be useful as the sole euthanasia agent or as part of a 2-step process, where animals are first rendered unconscious through exposure to inhaled anesthetic agents and subsequently killed via a secondary method…Euthanizing agents cause death by three basic mechanisms:
  • Direct depression of neurons necessary for life function
  • Hypoxia
  • Physical disruption of brain activity.

​The euthanasia process should minimize or eliminate pain, anxiety, and distress prior to loss of consciousness. As loss of consciousness resulting from these mechanisms can occur at different rates, the suitability of a particular agent or method will depend on whether an animal experiences distress prior to loss of consciousness”. 


  1. ​”Inhaled anesthetics are aversive to rabbits and laboratory rodents and the same may be true for other species. Animals may struggle and become anxious during induction of anesthesia, with some animals exhibiting escape behaviors prior to onset of unconsciousness. Should apnea or excitement occur, time to loss of consciousness may be prolonged.
  2. Ether is irritating, flammable, and explosive. Explosions have occurred when animals, euthanized with ether, were placed in an ordinary (not explosion-proof) refrigerator or freezer and when bagged animals were placed in an incinerator.
  3. Induction with methoxyflurane is unacceptably slow in some species.
  4. Because of design limits on vapor output, precision anesthetic vaporizers may be associated with a longer wash-in time constant and, thus, longer induction time; time to death may be prolonged as O2 is commonly used as the vapor carrier gas.
  5. Nitrous oxide used alone will create a hypoxic atmosphere prior to loss of consciousness and will support combustion.
  6. Personnel and animals may be injured by exposure to these agents. There is recognized potential for human abuse of inhaled anesthetics.
  7. Because large amounts of inhaled anesthetics are absorbed and substantial amounts remain in the body for days,use of inhaled anesthetics for euthanasia is challenging for food-producing animals due to potential for tissue residues”(AMVA).

” When inhaled gases are used for euthanasia, birds should be checked to verify death because they may appear dead but can regain consciousness if the exposure time or the concentration of the agent is insufficient. Gases must be supplied in purified forms without contaminants or adulterants, typically from a commercially supplied cylinder or tank. The gas-dispensing system should have sufficient capacity and control to maintain the necessary gas concentrations in the container being utilized, and the container itself should be sufficiently airtight to hold the gas at appropriate levels(AVMA)”


​”Carbon dioxide has successfully been applied for euthanasia of nonhatched eggs (pips), newly hatched poultry in hatcheries, and adult birds (including routine euthanasia of large commercial laying hen flocks 356,522) and on farms keeping birds for research or elite genetics. Because neonatal birds may be more accustomed to high concentrations of CO2 (incubation environments typically include more CO2 ), concentrations necessary to achieve rapid euthanasia of pipped eggs or newly hatched chicks may be substantially greater (as high as 80% to 90%) than for adults of the same species”.


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Humane Euthanasia For Chickens

If you keep any animal at some point you’re going to have to deal with life and death issues. It’s rare that our pets die a peaceful death in their sleep alleviating us of any decision making about their end-of-life care. I have owned cats and dogs all my life and have been confronted by their impending mortality and when to ease them along. In every case, I have opted to have them euthanized by my veterinarian, and I hope, not later than necessary.

Euthanasia of pets has certainly improved since I was a kid. Our current vet makes house calls or opts to euthanize pets outside their office. Several years ago our poodle was suffering from heart disease and we knew it was only a matter of time before he would get worse and potentially require veterinary intervention. Our vet advised us that Simon probably had more good days ahead of him, but knowing that his condition was terminal he preferred not to wait until his condition was critical. We didn’t make him spend his last moments inside the examining room, which for him held stressful memories. My family sat out on the grass at the edge of the forest while our vet administered the drugs. Simon died a peaceful death with the wind blowing through this fur and his loved ones around him. I would wish that kind of death for everyone: no fear or pain and the alleviation of suffering.

The word euthanasia comes from the Greek words meaning ‘good death’. For many folks new to chicken keeping they are unsure when is the right time to euthanize a bird. From the posts I see on Facebook chicken groups I think most wait too long. A couple of years ago an Avian Veterinarian/Pathologist advised me that if a bird has not demonstrated some clinical improvement after 24 hours then to consider culling. I thought that was a bit hasty at the time, but I have subsequently conceded to her wisdom.

I am equal parts optimist and coward and fear I have made some of my birds suffer, unduly, because of my indecision. My advice is to euthanize a bird in the following cases: if it is suffering and is unlikely to recover; if you’ve intervened and there is no improvement after 1-2 days; if the bird is carrying a contagious pathogen for which there is no cure.

Whether you keep chickens for meat or as pets, at some point you will be faced with ending their lives. There are many ways to dispatch chickens, but not all of them are considered humane. Regardless of the reason, the method should always be fast, painless and avoid any further suffering.

Canadian Veterinary Medical Association position statement:  “The animal must be rendered irreversibly unconscious as rapidly as possible with the least possible pain, fear and anxiety. The preferred methods used to achieve this are those that affect the brain first, followed quickly by cessation of cardiac and respiratory function. The experience, training, sensitivity, and compassion of the individual carrying out the procedure are critical”

The following methods are most commonly practiced as humane forms of culling chickens.

Cervical Dislocation

Cervical Dislocation (Science Direct)
Cervical Dislocation (Poultry Industry Council
Cervical Dislocation (Small Farm Reader)

This is the technique that my vet would employ to dispatch a chicken. It is the simplest method in that it doesn’t require any tools and causes unconsciousness quickly when done correctly. (Of course, the proviso is ‘correctly’. How do you practice without causing any suffering to your first test subjects?)

Cervical dislocation causes unconsciousness by stretching the neck and dislocating the joint at the base of the skull. The spinal cord snaps and the resulting recoil causes brain damage and unconsciousness through concussion. Blood vessels are broken resulting in oxygen deprivation and death. Dislocation farther down the neck will not be as quick and effective.

  • Tilt the birds head back so it points towards its tail, which aligns the joints making dislocation easier.
  • Firmly push the head away from your body until you feel the head separate.
  • Pinch just behind the head to ensure that the head has separated from the neck. You will feel a gap like there are two layers of skin between your fingers.
  • The bird will convulse and go into spasms, which is the normal result from the loss of central control over the muscles. The movements do not mean the bird is conscious or suffering.
Broomstick Method (Poultry Central)
Broomstick Method (Press Reader)


  • Broom sticking is how many homesteaders process animals for slaughter. It’s fast, simple and efficient.
  • The bird is simply laid on the ground, face down with its neck outstretched and a broomstick is placed across its neck.
  • The stick is stepped on both sides and the chicken is lifted upwards by the feet, snapping the neck.
  • Some people choose to restrain the bird before doing this by wrapping the wings.
  • Don’t put too much weight on the broomstick or stand on it too long or you can cause unnecessary pain and stress.  
Killing Cone (Premier1 Supplies)
Scissors Method (Poulty Industry Council)


Decapitation is an effective, humane method of dispatching a suffering animal. It is very quick, with unconsciousness usually occurring within 15-20 seconds. When the spinal cord is cut spinal fluid is released causing unconsciousness.

The loss of blood flow results in a quick death. The head should be completely removed or the bird may remain conscious until the oxygen in the brain runs out up to four minutes later.  Bleeding out is not considered an acceptable method of killing a bird by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association). If you want to bleed a bird (i.e. for slaughter), you must make it unconscious first.

  • Blades must be sharp in order to remove the head in one cut.  
  • Blades or the scissors must be large enough so that the head is removed in one motion.
  • Scissors/loppers are easier to manage than knives and axes.  
  • If using an axe you can place the bird on a stump with two nails driven in about an inch apart to hold the head securely.
  • A bird can be placed upside down in a ‘killing cone’ mounted to a tree. A large pair of shears, scissors or a very sharp knife can be used to cut off the chicken’s head, severing the spine.

Severing the spinal cord results in a lot of post-mortem movement from the body. If you are squeamish I’d recommend restraining the bird to minimize flapping. The bird is completely dead within seconds, but may continue to move for several minutes afterwards. This might be hard to watch but it is quite humane and instantaneous.

Mechanical Dislocation (MDPT)
Captive Bolt (

Of course there are other methods, some more humane than others:

  • Overdose of prescription barbiturates (administered by a veterinarian).
  • If you have a young bird you can make a C02 chamber using baking soda and white vinegar to cause asphyxia. Veterinary Associations advise only using this method on animals under two pounds.
  • Captive bolt devices and guns are fast and effective. The shot should be aimed at the brain, between the bird’s eyes and ears.
  • Blunt force trauma to the head works if your aim is good and you have applied enough pressure on the head to kill the bird instantaneously.
  • Inhumane methods include: drowning, freezing, ‘helicoptering’ (holding a bird by the neck and spinning it around in order to break the neck) or using car exhaust.

I am the first one to admit that I have a difficult time, not with the concept, but the hands-on practice of euthanizing a bird. Even when I believe it’s to alleviate their suffering I still struggle with making the decision and feel a bit queasy once done. I have only euthanized a few birds over many years: using the scissor method with young birds and once with an axe on a mature hen. I have been fortunate that I have friends that are skilled and willing to help out when it comes to euthanizing my sick birds. I know that their lives have been ended quickly, with respectful and compassionate care.

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