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

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:


There will not be a test, but you have to do this! Every time no exceptions.

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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I'm going into the silkie breeding business and I've always had the thought in the back of my mind of what am I going to do if a chick hatches that needs to be taken out of its misery. This seems to be my answer and a much more peaceful way of passing.
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Thank you for a humane and accessible way to cull sick chicks/chickens who have no hope. this was a well written article, and I appreciated your use of humor and frog statues to make your points clear without being too graphic. I will certainly be bookmarking this, though I certainly hope I will not need it, I suspect we all will, eventually.
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Thank you for this. I am likely facing culling a 2 week old chick with a potentially untreatable slipped tendon. I'm hoping he gets better, but hope is never a plan.
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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! :)
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is true, I have never paid much attention to concentration as I really use a lot to prevent any mishaps...Thanks
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!
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.
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.

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