The Chicken World's Worst Chore, culling the injured and sick babies.

By duluthralphie · May 27, 2016 · ·
  1. duluthralphie
    I have just had to to the worst job of bird rearing. I was forced to cull a 4 day old turkey. We tried everything, it's feet and legs would not work.

    It happens to us all at some point. Our choices are not good, either let it die a slow miserable death or find some way to speed up the process. We have found what we think is a good way to preserve some dignity and comfort for the chick in a humane fashion.

    I will be treating this subject with a little humor, some of you will say very little and in bad taste, I am sure. I am doing this because it is so sad and hard for many of us to even talk about. But it should be talked about. It is a part of bird rearing and a part of everyday life for many of us.

    I needed to find a model to sit in for the injured or sick chick. Even I am not calloused enough to show the actual process with a life model. This is my paid model, as you can see he is excited for his first paid modeling gig.


    First we need to find a good plastic container, with a lid. I prefer the hinged lids, it seems to make it easier. The dishwasher soap containers are perfect.


    Next we need to remove all the unused contents of the container. Please dispose of them properly.




    Check to make sure the container is empty, we do not want anything to interfere with the process.
    Even after checking the container and making sure it was empty, my wife was upset with me over something. I am not sure what, I did not just dump the stuff on the table like normally do. Sometimes there is no pleasing that woman!

    Next place a soft comfortable layer of something on the bottom of the container. I use a soft paper towel knotted up loosely and laid on the floor of the container.


    Now you can place the bird that does not have a chance at a decent life in the container. Make sure it is comfortable. Spend a few seconds or minutes saying your goodbyes and comforting the poor bird.

    Then you need to put an absorbent layer over the bird. We use the blue paper shop towels for this. They hold more liquid without falling apart and prevent the subject bird from getting wet or a discomforting cold feeling.



    We are now at the point we need to put the bird to sleep. We use ether. The same stuff that was used in earlier surgeries on humans. It is readily available and relatively cheap. The common name for it is starting fluid. Any big box store or auto parts store will have it.


    Simply spray the ether into the blue shop rag, or whatever covering layer you decide to use. Make sure you put enough ether in the container. When you think you have enough double what you have put in and then spray more in.

    You do not want to do this in the house. MAKE SURE YOU ARE OUTSIDE IN A VENTED AREA! Use lots of ether, I cannot say this enough. These are two important parts. Let us review them:

    OUTSIDE~!!!! & LOTS OF ETHER!!!!

    There will not be a test, but you have to do this! Every time no exceptions.
    OUTSIDE~!!!! & LOTS OF ETHER!!!!

    Set the container aside and let it sit a good 30 minutes to an hour. The longer the better. You do not want to open it too soon and have the chick revive, that would be horrible for you and the chick.

    When you do open it, you will find the chick appears to have just went to sleep. They will appear all relaxed and peaceful. There will be no sign of a struggle. I cannot say you will have a good feeling about this, but you will know you have done all you could and saved the bird a long painful death.


    Remove the bird and dispose of it in any manner you deem proper. I am required to either bury or burn them as part of my NPIP hatchery Certification. I have homemade crematory for birds. But I will not get into that now.

    I actually hope as morbid of a subject as this is, some of you will use it and find a kind of peace from it. My wife and I do, knowing they simply went to sleep instead of a terrible painful maiming death. I, will tell you I have all I can do to spray and close the lid, but I know I could never do the other methods involving knifes, axes or hammers.

    I hope this helps someone.

    This disclaimer is most important : NO FROGS WERE INJURED IN THE MAKING OF THIS ARTICLE!

    I am adding a postscript here:
    I saw a few people worried about the effects of any additives in the ether (starting fluid). It has never been a concern of mine. They will not live long enough to have lasting effects. There is nothing unpleasant about the smell or any burning in the lungs from starting fluid. It can actually be abused for a high, (before you die).

    There were many times especially as a kid on the farm I was too close to too much starting fluid and would end up light headed.....back then we were not like it is today with lots of protective measures taken....Also I have used clear containers to see there is no apparent discomfort to the bird.

    My black lab is 11 years old, I plan to make a comfy bed in a "box" for her when her time comes (we think she has cancer) if she dos not die on her own and needs to be put down. I would empty several cans into the small air tight box for her...It would save her the misery of a trip to the vet and me the $300 it costs to but a dog down. It will be hard on me, I will cry for days, but it will be the best for her to die here on the farm she loves..

    I understand if some of you are leery of this method and want to use another, it is your choice, but please to not discourage this method for those of us that want a less disfiguring and hopefully less painful death for our animals. There is nothing inhumane about this.
    Thank you.

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Recent User Reviews

  1. N F C
    "Worst Chore"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Apr 11, 2019
    Thank you for discussing a tough subject (with your usual good humor).
    duluthralphie and Miss Lydia like this.
  2. lcwmt
    "culling chicks"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Dec 17, 2018
    Thank you! This is informative and handled nicely (thanks for the humor!).
    I too am wondering if it is an effective/humane method of helping a mature bird??? My guess is the amount of ether would be increased to the max???

    We have not culled - yet - but there may come a time when there is an ill or injured bird. The Vets here do not treat or euthanize chickens. Unfortunately, in an earlier life, I was witness to one too many massacres (Knives, hatchets, improper preparation, terrified critters etc. NOT good.)
    I cannot bear the idea of that again. This method, handled properly, seems humane.
    1. duluthralphie
      I used this on a 50 pound turkey Tom that had a stroke...after a few days in the house we knew it was his time.. I made a gas chamber out of a 55 gallon barrel. Gently put JJ in it and emptied a full can of starting fluid into it. The barrel had a plastic lid that snapped on with a retaining ring. We. Drilled a hole in the lid, placed a plastic container full of Cotten balls under the hole.. we sprayed the fluid through the hole into the Cotten balls.

      We left him in for a couple hours.Just to be sure he was gone. Then opened and walked away to let it air out... he had not moved from when slid him in.
  3. room onthebroom
    "Thank you for this article"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Dec 17, 2018
    Ralphie, you rock!!!


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  1. Abriana
    Thank you so much for this article—I used this method this evening to euthanize a very sick hen. It was much more peaceful for her and for me. I will be using this method anytime I have a terminally sick bird. Originally I thought I’d take the bird into the vet’s office, but tonight I learned that it’s much better for them to pass on in families surroundings with as little stress as possible. It was hard but I believe I did what was best—thank you for putting this out there.
      Celticdragonfly likes this.
  2. Miss Lydia
  3. chickencheeper
    Could this be done on full grown hens?
  4. lcwmt
    Thank you so much for answering my question re using this method on a mature bird! Common sense told me it would work given certain adjustments. However, common sense sometimes omits lessons learned by experience. I appreciate you sharing *your* experiences.
  5. Mcquistonv
    Thank You! I was faced with the possibility of putting one of my week old chicks down, and I was stressing. I was thinking I was not cut out for this chicken rearing life and should give all my birds away. Fortunately, or unfortnately I am not sure which, the chick passed on its own. It did not appear to be suffering, so I was willing to give it time to "perk up".

    Thank you for this humane option that I think I could do, and I can still the joys of chick rearing.
      TCCL, TwoCrows, Miss Lydia and 2 others like this.
  6. Miss Lydia
    I appreciate your humor, this isn't something none of us want to have to do but for those of us who can't imagine the ax this looks like the best way.
  7. path.otto
    I'm late to the party (not that euthanasia is a party...), story of my life, but I love this article, both for it's humor and the delicate manner in which it is approached. Sometimes, things are so tough that all we can do is laugh! I also think this could be the way I will choose if it comes to that. Next to chickens I love frogs best! I must find that frog in a bath tub! BTW, do you know how expensive that dishwasher soap is? No wonder your wife was miffed! :lau

    Good job!
  8. Phoebus
    Thank you for the very useful information presented in a very kind manner that's not so uncomfortable.....
  9. citykitty
    Thank you for this article, I finally found a method I think I'll be comfortable with. Can you do this with full sized hens, and of so, does anything change?
  10. shawluvsbirds
    I have heard about this method but did not know exactly how it should be done. I won't be laughing when I have to do this for real but your frog model had me cracking up!:lau
  11. NancyNurseCxMama
    Unfortunately, I am facing this issue now. Marek's, with my sweetest little heartbreaker.
    Just a note---there are different concentrations of ether in different brands of starting fluid. Look for one with the highest ether concentration. You can check this by googling the product and looking at the MSDS info.
    It truly sucks....we so love our little birds.
    1. duluthralphie
      This is true, I have never paid much attention to concentration as I really use a lot to prevent any mishaps...Thanks
  12. bantiesrule
    You claim no frogs were injured in making this article but does that include the mental anguish of having a bath-time photo posted on the internet. I hope you will give him/her all the help and support he/she will need to get over this ordeal.

    Thanks Ralphie, great article.
  13. Bogtown Chick
    Ralphie this is fabulous. The humor in these times is well needed--a welcome relief. An outlet for the seriousness of the situation. We get it. Great job. Your caring hand is not amiss here.
  14. mjh2032
    Thank you for this information. I hope I will not ever have to do this but I appreciate knowing if it comes to this I have a way that is not as traumatic for me or the bird to handle the situation.
  15. Blooie
    Well done. I am saving this in case I ever need it. Thank you!
      TCCL, WannaBeHillBilly, Raenh and 2 others like this.
  16. BantyChooks
    I just had to cull a chick for the first time, and I did it this way. It was fast and peaceful. Thank you Ralphie for writing this article- It came just in time to save both me and the chick excess trauma.
      TCCL and TwoCrows like this.
  17. ForrestGump
    This is the method I use on chicks. They do not suffer (or suffocate), they just fall asleep. As someone who has worked in the veterinary field, I can say this is the most humane and least traumatizing way to cull a chick. Most of them are gone within 5 minutes, so you don't have to wait very long.
    Well written, and thank you.
  18. duluthralphie
    Ty both...It is always hard, but at times it is not only for the best, there just is no other option.
  19. TwoCrows
    Thank you for sharing your experience with this. I do know this a very difficult decision to make and also to follow through with. I am facing a similar situation with a sick hen that I plan on euthanizing in this manner as soon as she is ready to let go. I am so sorry for your loss but a great article just the same! :)
  20. BantyChooks

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