Nitrogen euthanasia

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by JWilson69, Nov 1, 2014.

  1. JWilson69

    JWilson69 New Egg

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    I recently had one of my girls develop Marek's. It became clear after several weeks of vet trips, taking very good care of her inside our home etc. that she was just getting weaker and would eventually succumb to a bad death so I decided to end it. I didn't want to take her to the vet again and have read about the break-the-neck method but there's just no way I could do that to her. I'm aware of the CO2 method and I know it's widely used but I just can't imagine it's an easy death. As noted in another post here, the brain is aware when it's CO2 overloaded and the "trying to breathe" reflex kicks in. To me it almost sounds like awake suffocation.

    So, instead I've read a lot about substituting Nitrogen because it isn't supposed to trigger the same reflex since we live in a Nitrogen-Oxygen atmosphere the brain doesn't "think" anything is abnormal until it's too late. Nitrogen is also easy to obtain... any gas supply store or welding supply store will carry small canisters of it. I picked one up at my local supply for $130. The majority of this is the price of the cylinder which is refillable. I figured that since I have 6 chickens (and plan on additional in the future), this may not be the only time I'll have a sick chicken needing euthanasia so the cost would be fine since I estimate there's enough gas per cylinder for at least 6 uses.

    I took a big plastic tub from Target and made it airtight with the exception of one hole I drilled in the side for the hose coming from the nitrogen tank and four smaller holes in the bottom to vent out any remaining oxygen (nitrogen is lighter than air so the remaining air will vent from the bottom). I put the whole thing in a big plastic bag and after putting my sick girl in the plastic tub and put the airtight lid on it, sealed the bag. This kept the nitrogen recirculating (and also allowed me to vent any remaining air out as the bag filled up).

    I've attached a photo.

    I put my sick girl in there and turned on the gas. I would say it was all over in under 5 minutes. At one point I did hear flapping at the very end (which was hard to take because from other threads here you know that's the end). I was surprised about that because I thought that she would succumb and not regain consciousness. Maybe that's an autonomic reflex? I don't know but I kept the gas on for about 15 minutes just to be sure and didn't open the bag or container for a half hour. I wanted to make sure before I buried her that there was no chance she could just be unconscious and could come alive later etc. After it was over I took her out and waited in the normal air for about a half hour again to make sure I felt she was cooling down (no body heat being generated).

    Again, this is just my experience. I did work and again, if you're facing this decision and don't like breaking the neck, it's an option. Note that in reading other posts of people who used CO2, I heard the peroxide/baking soda and the dry ice method being used. To me the dry ice is hard because you have to obtain it too and make sure neither you nor your chickens touch it. I also read about one guy who hooked a hose to the tailpipe of his car. Please don't do that because what comes from the car is not pure CO2 but a mixture of CO2 and burnt hydrocarbons. You know if you go behind a car near the exhaust and breathe in the vapors you want to cough. That's because the unburnt hydrocarbons irritate the lungs. Don't do this to your chickens, it hurts. You need pure CO2 (or as I did it, pure Nitrogen). Remember they're your pets and deserve as quick and painless death as possible.

    Feel free to email me if you have any questions on the bin or Nitrogen process I used. My email is : [email protected]

    Bless our chickens!
    [​IMG]
     
  2. MeepBeep

    MeepBeep Chillin' With My Peeps

    Helium works as well and like most gases the animal is unaware it's being suffocated, they just peacefully fall to sleep... It's also super easy to obtain, even at Walmart...

    FYI for most animals the 'suffocation' reflex is triggered by a CO2 build up in the blood not an actual lack of oxygen, this is why CO2 suffocation invokes the suffocation (gasping for air) reflex and other gases do not...
     
  3. aldarita

    aldarita Chillin' With My Peeps

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    JWilson69, thank you for posting your experience with your girl. I was not aware that CO2 causes the "suffocation gasp."
    I had to euthanized one of my girls not long ago because she was an internal layer and her abdomen was extremely distended, I knew she would get worse so before that happened I had to let her go. We have a CO2 tank that we got when we were trapping and killing the pesty Hosps (house sparrows) that have caused lots of problems in our property.
    You say that Nitrogen does not cause this gasp so they simply fall asleep. I think I will switched to Nitrogen then.
    I see in your picture that you covered the box with a plastic bag. For what I have read and the little experience I have doing this, you don't have to use the bag, the box has to have a hole to let the air out when the nitrogen is coming in. I read in BYC that if you use the plastic container from Walmart, you don't need to have a hole because the lid doesn't fit tight.

    I read your post again and realized that you poked holes at the bottom of your box.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2014
  4. JWilson69

    JWilson69 New Egg

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    Hi aldarita,

    Thanks for your reply. Yes, the lids on the containers from Target, Walmart etc. aren't tight fitting. What I had done with mine which can't be seen (because the lid is on) is that I put a rubber seal along the top edge where the lid fits on so it's actually airtight. I drilled a hole in the side large enough for the tubing from the Nitrogen hose (it was about 3/4") and on the bottom four small holes just to "vent" the residual air out. So, when the Nitrogen is turned on and starts filling the container, since it's lighter than air, the residual air is pushed out the bottom holes. The external plastic bag was just insurance that the Nitrogen gas would recirculate in case there were any leaks in the seal on the lid. Also, it allowed me to "vent" excess as the bag filled up it also pushes residual air out ending up with a pure nitrogen environment after a minute or two.

    One member, MeepBeep, replied above that you can also use Helium. I have heard of this too but have never tried it.

    Again, the only thing that was a little unnerving was that I expected NOTHING after the air was fully evacuated and the environment was 100% nitrogen. I didn't expect the flapping sound at the end. I hope that didn't mean suffering. I try to do everything I can to keep that from happening (and for anyone reading this, we all want that!)

    Best,

    -Jim
     
  5. TaraBellaBirds

    TaraBellaBirds Chillin' With My Peeps

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    JWilson the 'flapping' was the death throes. These are muscle twitches that happen as the bird dies. Sometimes they are in the full body, sometimes no more than a couple shakes of the leg. I don't think it means that your bird was in pain. Most of the time I see the throes the bird is already unconcious. You did the best you could for her and it sounds as if her death was peaceful and quick. [​IMG]
     
  6. JWilson69

    JWilson69 New Egg

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    Thanks TaraBellaBirds [​IMG]
     
  7. aldarita

    aldarita Chillin' With My Peeps

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    JWilson, I want to commend you for being so caring, thoughtful and sensitive about euthanizing your girl. You did your research and found the most humane way to do it (available to us) and then shared your experience. Thank you.
     
  8. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    I've been where you are so many times, not being satisfied with any method of euthanasia, doing the best I can for my bird and hating every minute of it. Just wanted to say I empathize with you and your story shows how much you care.
     
  9. JWilson69

    JWilson69 New Egg

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    Thanks aladrita and speckledhen for your warm comments! Hopefully more and more people will realize the wonder of these intelligent, gentle and loving creatures.

    Best to all,

    -Jim
     
  10. randomguest

    randomguest New Egg

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    Just wanted to add that PURE nitrogen, argon, or helium are the best (most available) choices. Neon or xenon would work but they're expensive and less available.

    Do NOT use CO2 or a CO2 blend, as mentioned it causes the suffocation panic response as blood levels of CO2 are how the brain tells if it's not getting enough oxygen.
     

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