Euthanasia by Dry Ice

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by NewAmericauna, May 2, 2016.

  1. NewAmericauna

    NewAmericauna New Egg

    May 2, 2016
    Hello all - like some others, I wanted to share my experience with euthanizing our sweet girl, Spruce. I found some references to euthanasia by dry ice, but couldn't find anyone who'd had a direct experience with an adult bird so wanted to share mine.

    Background: I am a new chicken owner living in a suburban area (six chicken limit), and we just got four birds back in March. We purchased adult birds already of laying age since we really wanted to start out with eggs. We got two birds from one farm and two from another - I wanted diversity in egg color so we got a barred rock, a white Brahma, and two Americaunas, an olive egger and a blue egger. The blue egger was Spruce, and the previous owner told us she had been picked on by the other birds so had stopped laying, but was largely recovered and should start again soon. She looked a little rough and we probably should have passed, but I really wanted those blue eggs <sigh>.

    Anyway, she turned out to be a really lovely bird, absolutely top of the pecking order but a good little flock leader. She wasn't loud but very vocal and would walk around and "grumble." She also had one of those perpetually grumpy expressions, so I called her Grumble Fluff.

    They all settled in nicely (thanks to SO much great advice I read here!!). Spruce started looking great, and within 3 weeks her comb turned a nice bright red and she started to visit the nesting box. One day, she went it and sounded for all the world like she was finally laying an egg - purred, egg song, the whole works. She finished and proudly strutted out. With great excitement I went to collect our first egg...and nothing. This is when I first started to learn about internal laying.

    For the next week or so, she was just fine. She was the friendliest hen, absolutely went NUTS for meal worms, and would happily hop into my lap for treats. One day I noticed just how heavy she'd gotten. Her abdomen was full and spongy. Then she got diarrhea (very liquidy stuff, white and green), and I was pretty sure she had egg yolk peritonitis. Our vet (who does home visits) did take a look at her and agreed. Although we treated her, as many of you know there's no cure and many birds never recover. A few days after the diarrhea Spruce really started to go downhill. I gave her baths and kept her eating, but then she refused even her favorite treat of meal worms. We knew her end was near; she looked miserable. After two days she still hadn't passed away and we knew it was time to help her move on. All the pressure on her internal organs probably meant she was in pain.

    Being my first chicken experience, I have found I get much more attached than I thought I would (no surprise to many of you I know). Although I agree cervical dislocation seems to be the fastest way, I'd never seen it done and no way was I ready to face that method (let alone decapitation). Also, because of the internal pressure in her abdomen, putting her on her side or even stretching her neck had the potential for causing a lot of pain. By this time, Spruce was 90% gone already - she was super weak and hadn't moved from her spot in the coop for almost 48 hours. I did my homework and we finally decided to use the dry ice method. DH helped. We placed two tubs into a larger, deep Tupperware bin (about 24" long x 16" wide x 16" deep). On the two inner bins, one was large enough to hold Spruce and the other big enough to hold the dry ice. We put Spruce in, and I got her settled to where she was laying down vs. on her feet. I draped a towel over her wings and head to keep her calmer, and in case she flapped. While I held her in place, DH put the dry ice (just a small block about 10" x 5" x 1") in the other container and poured just a little water over it to release the vapors. Much of the reason I choose this method was because the CO2 gas stays at the bottom (and you can actually see the vapor, thus have some control over the amount). Therefore I could keep hands on Spruce until the very end. DH put the lid of the bin halfway over to keep vapors inside, although I don't even think that was necessary. She didn't struggle, but as the CO2 entered her system she did have about 5 spasms (each weaker than the next), then she was gone. I was really, really glad to be holding on to her: for the comfort to her, because I could feel how quickly it worked, and because it was really important she didn't flail around and burn herself on the dry ice. The whole process took only 5 minutes and I think it was less than 60 seconds from when the gas reached her to when I felt her last spasm. I wouldn't call it "peaceful" but it was quick and nonviolent. Although I knew she was gone, I closed the lid and left her in there for about 15 minutes just to be extra careful (and to give myself a break!) I cried the entire time - really glad I didn't have to use a backup method. One of the toughest things I've ever had to do, but I am at peace with how it went and knowing we ended her suffering.

    Of course I am very sad and will remember this always, but it was not traumatic for her of for us.

    FYI I would not really advocate this method with a more vibrant adult bird - I think they could start to panic when they couldn't breath. Maybe it would work, but I think other methods would be better. But this worked really well for a very sick bird.

    Thanks to BYC (and members) for all of the excellent information you all provide!
    I hope this post helps give others an idea of one of the options. Yesterday was a very sad day, but I know she's in a better place.
    1 person likes this.
  2. thatfarmer

    thatfarmer New Egg

    Sep 14, 2016
    First,I am very sorry for your loss.It can be hard when chickens die,especially when you are beginning.

    Second,I regret to inform you that CO2 is not considered to be a humane method of euthanasia. CO2 kills by asphyxiation,where the
    gas replaces oxygen in the blood stream.This is a slow,painful death,and the animal becomes very stressed in the process.In addition,the gas will irritate the eyes and mucous membranes. CO2 gassing only works in the gas is very pure(such as from a pressurized CO2 cylinder) and if the animal is in a specially designed sealed chamber.

    I do not know if your chicken experienced pain,as the reaction to carbon dioxide is different in some animals,but I do not recommend
    using this method in the future. Barbiturate overdose,cervical dislocation,blunt force trauma,or gunshot (while aesthetically displeasing) are more humane ways of euthanasia.
  3. Lazy J Farms Feed & Hay

    Lazy J Farms Feed & Hay Chillin' With My Peeps

    Carbon Dioxide is used as a euthanasia tool in commercial livestock production but there are special tools needed to ensure the animals don't suffer.
    Carbon Dioxide is an approved method of euthanasia in commercial livestock production. However, simply throwing the animal into a box filled with Dry Ice is not appropriate. Here is a portion of the summary of use of CO2 for euthanasia from the AVMA guidelines:

    Carbon dioxide and CO2 gas mixtures must be supplied in a precisely regulated and purified form without contaminants or adulterants, typically from a commercially supplied cylinder or tank. The direct application of products of combustion or sublimation is not acceptable due to unreliable or undesirable composition and/ or displacement rate.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2016
  4. NewAmericauna

    NewAmericauna New Egg

    May 2, 2016
    Some rather judging people on this forum… I did the best I could, with the best tools that I thought, and did my homework ahead of time. Sorry you don't like my approach, but death isn't pretty no matter what.
  5. NewAmericauna

    NewAmericauna New Egg

    May 2, 2016
    Also, you weren't there and don't know. I guarantee you it was less painful than a botched cervical dislocation, which I haven't done before.
  6. tmarsh83

    tmarsh83 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 16, 2015
    You have to be as open to criticism as you are praise if you're going to post on the Internet. I'm sorry you find that bothersome.

    Also, making yourself an animal Caretaker brings great responsibility and never more so than when it's time to end an animals life.

    This method may have made you feel better but it was not the most effective manner for the animal. That's not a debate. Those are facts.

    Keeping animals is great when it's just playing in the yard and taking pictures. But there are harsh realities that not everyone considers or are prepared for.

    I hope should you need to put a bird down in the future you will find another method.
    2 people like this.
  7. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. ..... Premium Member

    Mar 9, 2014
    My Coop
    VERY well stated!
    2 people like this.
  8. meh341

    meh341 New Egg

    Aug 2, 2017
    So sorry for your loss. I just had to put down a chicken due to Mereks paralysis recently. I also went to Dry Ice route, and didn't even hold her down ~ just made a comfy nest and stayed and watched to be sure she didn't accidentally tough the dry ice. No struggle at all, except she surprised herself a couple times with being drowsy before finally letting herself fall asleep. I used the syringe we had been using to try to get her to drink water to dribble a bit of water onto the dry ice block every few minutes, so the CO2 level went up gradually (see below). I also left her for 10 more minutes after she appeared to stop breathing to be sure. Last thing I wanted to do was to take her out early and have her come back to consciousness with in pain or buried ~ yuck.

    I tried to psych myself up for the cervical dislocation, but couldn't get myself to do it. Like you, I was worried about messing it up and causing her more pain and fear. She didn't seem afraid or distressed in any way, didn't peck at the bin or try to flap or stand up. It was totally fine.

    "Of those methods for euthanasia approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) 1, the only method that could be used safely at home involves the use of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is heavier than air and nearly odorless. In low concentrations (7.5%) it is an analgesic (pain reliever), and at medium concentrations (30%-40%) it can be used as an anesthetic, causing rapid loss of consciousness without struggling, distress, or excitation. 3 At high concentrations (>80%) CO2 causes quick death. High concentrations, however, painfully irritate eyes and the respiratory tract, so it is important to first induce an analgesic effect, then bring about deep anesthesia (within 1 to 2 minutes) before exposing the animal to high concentrations."

    As a Biology major and Medical Scientist, I researched the most human way, and short of phenobarbital, CO2 was the most humane. There is some research that rats will leave a high CO2 area and prefer not to stay, but 1) they aren't birds and 2) that doesn't mean they were suffering, 3) a sudden high CO2 environment is irritating, while slowly increasing CO2 is analgesic (see above). Not sure where the folks above are getting their "facts," would love some reputable sited sources. Hope it didn't scare you away from this site :p Folks here second guessing and saying we should have done it their way can have their opinion, but personally I think they should have done it the way I chose...

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