Evaluation of Euthanasia Methods on Behavioral and Physiological Responses of Newly Hatched Male Layer Chicks.
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Newly hatched male layer chicks are considered as "by-products" in the egg industry and must be humanely euthanized at the hatchery. Instantaneous mechanical destruction (maceration) is the predominant euthanasia method applied in poultry hatcheries and is approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). However, maceration is not perceived by the public to be a humane means of euthanasia. The effects of alternative euthanasia methods, including carbon dioxide (CO2) or nitrogen (N2) inhalation, and a commercial negative pressure stunning system on behavioral and physiological responses of day-of-hatch male layer chicks, were evaluated in a field trial. Chick behaviors, including ataxia, loss of posture, convulsions, cessation of vocalization, and cessation of movement, were monitored. Serum hormones were assessed at the end of each of the alternative euthanasia treatments, including a control group allowed to breathe normal atmospheric air. The N2 method induced unconsciousness and death later than the CO2 and negative pressure methods, and increased serum corticosterone concentrations of neonatal chicks. Carbon dioxide inhalation increased serotonin concentrations as compared to controls, as well as the N2 and the negative pressure methods. The behavioral and physical responses observed in this study suggest that both CO2 inhalation and negative pressure stunning can be employed to humanely euthanize neonatal male layer chicks.