2015 - 2018

Assessing methods for on-farm euthanasia of turkeys, chickens, breeders, and layers

Principal Investigator: Tina Widowski, University of Guelph
Co-investigator: Karen Schwean-Lardner, University of Saskatchewan; Patricia Turner, University of Guelph; Penny Lawlis, OMAFRA; Jenny Fricke, Western College of Veterinary Medicine; Tennille Knezacek, University of Saskatchewan
Status: Completed


To validate the efficacies of two non-penetrating captive bolt devices for inducing rapid loss of consciousness and death in poultry.


On farm euthanasia is often required as an endpoint for sick or injured birds to prevent further suffering.  Traditional on-farm euthanasia techniques include mostly physical methods, such as manual and mechanical cervical dislocation (CD) and manually applied blunt force trauma. The recent development of a non-penetrating captive bolt (NPCB) device, the Zephyr-E, has been validated for use on turkeys and is an option for on-farm euthanasia.  This device has led to the development of other NPCB devices, however the need remains to scientifically validate the efficacy of these devices for inducing rapid loss of consciousness and death in poultry on farm. Until recently, there were limited standardized measures of loss of consciousness in poultry, which made the evaluation of stunning and slaughter methods difficult or impossible.  Therefore, data is still lacking on the efficacy NPCB and mechanical cervical dislocating devices being used in the Canadian poultry industry. Behavioural and physical methods of insensibility, post-mortem measures of traumatic brain, skull, vertebral and spinal cord injury, and when possible, brain activity as determined by  electroencephalogram (EEG) to determine unequivocally when birds are rendered unconscious will be used to make science-based recommendations to the industry.  Restraining devices for use with recommended devices will be developed and optimized to improve adoption rates of these technologies on farm.


$640,148 (CPRC $40,000, NSERC $312,760, PIC $45,000, Chicken Farmers of Saskatchewan $60,000, Egg Farmers of Canada $60,000, Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg & Chick Commission $38,700 (in-kind), Hybrid Turkeys $62,500 (cash) and $6,563 (in-kind), Bock Industries $14,625 (in-kind))

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