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How to cull chicks

Euthanize a chickIf you make the hard decision to cull a chick, you're still faced with the dilemma of how to do the deed.  After researching all of the options, I decided that the most humane (and quickest) method is to suffocate the chick using carbon dioxide.  Although this sounds high tech, you just need a sealable tupperware container, a shorter container to fit inside, and some baking soda and vinegar.

You may have mixed baking soda and vinegar together to make an erupting "volcano" for an elementary school project, in which case you know that the the duo foam up on contact, releasing carbon dioxide into the air.  You'll want to do a few experiments before killing your chick to find out how much baking soda and vinegar are needed to foam up well --- I covered the bottom of my smaller reservoir with about half an inch of baking soda and poured on perhaps another inch and a half of vinegar to get the best foaming action without overflowing my inner reservoir.  (No need to get the chick wet and uncomfortable during its last seconds.)

Now that you know what you're doing, prep your gas chamber by adding baking soda to the inner reservoir, then put the chick inside the larger container.  Pour the vinegar on top of the baking soda and quickly close the lid on the entire chamber.  When I culled my chick, the bird peeped for about two seconds before collapsing, then spent perhaps another ten seconds twitching (during part of which it was probably already dead and was definitely unconscious.)  Leave the lid on the container for a few extra minutes to be sure, then bury your chick.

Although it's sad to have to cull a chick, in the end, it's kinder to remove the chick before its flockmates peck it to death.  Now that I know how easy euthanizing an ailing chick can be, I won't make the chick wait, in pain, while I get up my courage.

Our chicken waterer keeps the healthy chicks alive and well from day 1.


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This has helped enormously thank you, I am waiting on 5 chicks to hatch that are definitely still alive and wobbling nicely , who according to the "books" and info I have read should be at least "pipping" into their air sacs by now and on their way out of their shells (day 20/21) It is my first time incubating and hatching ..... so am understandably nervous..... but reading your words above has given me some insight, and if I sadly had to end any of their lives, I am so glad there is a way that I could manage to do...... your method is the most ideal and to me quickest way of dealing with very ill chicks ... thank you for the advice ......

Comment by Sue Feather Sat Feb 25 12:32:37 2012
Sue --- I hope you have a perfect hatch and don't need the information! You might also enjoy reading my summary of what I learned about incubating chickens last year. I give more information about when I feel helping actually helped.
Comment by anna Sat Feb 25 12:46:29 2012
I am brand new at chickens. We bought 15 chicks three weeks ago for eggs. The first day one of them got its eye pecked out and I had to isolate her and then she started picking at her own back and has not gotten to the point where I feel I can reintroduce it to the others. I got some of that blue stuff and cleaned her up today and put the blue stuff on her, but when I put it in with the rest they went after her eye again (I didn't put the blue stuff on her eye because I wasn't sure if it was safe). I don't know what to do. Will the others ever accept her back again with her eye gone? Would it be best for her to put her down now? I feel like she is stressed in solitary confinement and she is not growing like all the others. Please give me some advice. New Chicken Mom
Comment by Elizabeth Fri Apr 27 18:57:20 2012
Elizabeth --- I'm sorry to say that in your shoes, I would probably euthanize the chick. I've noticed with adult chickens, that once a hen is obviously disfigured, she either has to be separated for the rest of her life, or she'll get picked on more and more. The trouble is that a solitary chicken is always unhappy! Good luck with your hard decision.
Comment by anna Fri Apr 27 19:20:48 2012
Dont do that because we helped 5 of them hatch and they couldnt walk for to days so we put them on a heating pad and day got stronger and they never died
Comment by laura Thu Jun 14 23:41:13 2012

Laura --- It depends completely on the ailment whether the chicks will bounce back. I generally give the chicks a few days in isolation in a spare incubator before deciding they won't bounce back, but the time that I was tender-hearted and kept a flawed chick, it struggled throughout its life and grew to only half the size of its peers.

This post was a followup to How to help chicks during hatching, which gives more information on when I helped chicks and they thrived.

Comment by anna Fri Jun 15 07:15:50 2012

I thank you for providing this information, but this manner of asphyxiation should include two additional steps, so as to be truly humane to the chick: Sudden exposures to high concentrations of Carbon Dioxide causes painful irritation of the eyes and respiratory system.

However, first introducing a concentration of 7.5% acts as an analgesic, so as to prevent any pain. A few minutes later, increasing the concentration to between 30% and 40% provides a very effective anesthetic, so as to cause the chick to fully and more gently lose consciousness. And, increasing the concentration beyond 80% causes the quick death, but w/o any pain being suffered at all.

This can still be accomplished with these same supplies by merely adding the proper amounts of vinegar in each of the three required steps (and w/o snapping the lid down tightly until the third amount has been added). Having more baking soda than is required would be fine, as it is the vinegar that controls the amount of carbon dioxide released (i.e. introducing 15 ml of 5% acetic acid to at least 1 gram of baking soda will release 291 cc of carbon dioxide gas).

Comment by cowcreekgeek Sun Nov 11 09:25:06 2012
Why cant they do it this way in the egg factories? It is so much more humane than putting them through a grinder or electrocuting them.
Comment by JJ Thu Mar 28 23:37:16 2013
I received eggs for a 4H yesterday and they are supposed to hatch tomorrow. Well, yesterday, one of the chicks decided to try and peck a hole, well, the whole is still there and no chick coming out. I don't think it is alive, but not for sure. NAy suggestions?
Comment by Alecia Tue Apr 2 14:56:06 2013
Alecia --- Often, a chick will pip (break the first hole in its shell), then sit for up to 24 hours before starting to unzip (knock the top off the egg so it can come out). Hopefully that's what's happening in your case!
Comment by anna Tue Apr 2 19:38:32 2013

After making the decision to assist the only viable chick out of a dozen we were incubating, he came out unable to put any pressure at all on his legs and is now not opening his eyes. A "friend" had agreed to take our chicks once they hatched at her farm, but when she learned that only one was born and it had problems she backed out. We are unable to keep chickens within city limits. I am so sad to have to end this poor baby's life, but he is obviously suffering. Thank you for this method. I just couldn't stand the though of having to do something to him that might be painful. I just want it to be quick, for his sake (and mine). I will be doing this after my children go to bed tonight and just let them know that he passed in the night.

Blessings, Nicole

Comment by Nicole Fri Jul 12 18:49:35 2013
was wondering if the baking soda n vinegar method would also work on adult chooks? Thanks
Comment by Rhyl Mon Nov 3 17:45:59 2014
Rhyl --- I think the tough part would be making enough gases to fill the larger chamber that you'd need to use for an adult chicken. I do recall someone talking about a solution, but can't remember quite what it was. Maybe laughing gas? Or dry ice? Sorry I can't be more helpful --- I make my husband kill adult hens for me.
Comment by anna Mon Nov 3 18:33:19 2014