On-farm euthanasia of broiler chickens: effects of different gas mixtures on behavior and brain activity

M A Gerritzen, B Lambooij, H Reimert, A Stegeman, B Spruijt

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    The purpose of this study was to investigate the suitability of gas mixtures for euthanasia of groups of broilers in their housing by increasing the percentage of CO2. The suitability was assessed by the level of discomfort before loss of consciousness, and the killing rate. The gas mixtures injected into the housing were 1) 100% CO2, 2) 50% N2 + 50% CO2, and 3) 30% O2 + 40% CO2 + 30% N2, followed by 100% CO2. At 2 and 6 wk of age, groups of 20 broiler chickens per trial were exposed to increasing CO2 percentages due to the injection of these gas mixtures. Behavior and killing rate were examined. At the same time, 2 broilers per trial equipped with brain electrodes were observed for behavior and brain activity. Ten percent of the 2-wk-old broilers survived the increasing CO2 percentage due to the injection of 30% O2 + 40% CO2 + 30% N2 mixture, therefore this mixture was excluded for further testing at 6 wk of age. At 6 wk of age, 30% of the broilers survived in the 50% N2 + 50% CO2 group. The highest level of CO2 in the breathing air (42%) was reached by the injection of the 100% CO2 mixture, vs. 25% for the other 2 mixtures. In all 3 gas mixtures, head shaking, gasping, and convulsions were observed before loss of posture. Loss of posture and suppression of electrical activity of the brain (n = 7) occurred almost simultaneously. The results of this experiment indicate that euthanasia of groups of 2- and 6-wk-old broilers by gradually increasing the percentage of CO2 in the breathing air up to 40% is possible.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1294-301
    Number of pages8
    JournalPoultry Science
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2004


    • Animals
    • Behavior, Animal
    • Brain
    • Carbon Dioxide
    • Chickens
    • Electroencephalography
    • Euthanasia, Animal
    • Posture


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