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The shackling environment

The shackling area should be well-ventilated, dry and as draught- and dust-free as possible. Noise and any other possible sources of disturbance to live birds must be minimised. In particular, loud, sudden, abrupt noises may unsettle and panic birds; so metal gates should be baffled, radios should not be excessively loud and personnel should avoid shouting (especially whilst handling birds).

Shackling staff should be rotated to other duties at regular intervals to prevent operator fatigue and/or diminished concentration which may hamper their ability to safeguard bird welfare.

When the time comes to shackle a particular batch of birds, their transport container(s) should be re-located from the lairage so they are as close as possible to the shackle line. Containers should be arranged so shacklers can easily reach into them, retrieve a bird and shackle it, without being forced to adopt awkward postures. Containers can be elevated so shacklers do not have to bend to reach birds. Consideration should be given to the number of birds, the typical weight of a bird and the distance it must be lifted and carried by the operators, from a container to the shackle hang-on point.

A container should only be opened as much as is necessary for each person to remove one bird at a time; this limits the opportunities for birds, particularly agile and/or nervous types, to escape. If birds escape from containers or their shackles, they must be immediately retrieved using good practice catching techniques. Birds must not be allowed to wander around an abattoir because this may put them at risk of injury by vehicles. Shackling stations can be caged to prevent escaped birds from roaming into the lairage. Netting can be suspended above the shackling area to contain any escaped individuals of species that can fly (eg guinea fowl). Net threads should be thick and the mesh size should not be too large or too small, to avoid a situation where a bird becomes entangled in the net and needs to be cut free. It may also be useful to have a hand-held catching net in the shackling station to quickly retrieve any bird that proves difficult to capture by hand.


Animals shall not be shackled if they are too small for the waterbath stunner or if shackling is likely to induce or increase the pain suffered.  European Council (EC) Regulation No. 1099/2009


Some poultry are susceptible to gait abnormalities due to rapid growth rate, developmental deformities and infectious causes. In addition, catching poultry on-farm for transport to slaughter may result in new injuries, particularly if birds are caught, lifted and carried by a single leg and carried in one hand with other birds. At the abattoir, it is important that shacklers monitor the birds they unload and do not shackle any injured, diseased or relatively small (eg runting syndrome) individuals. Instead, such birds should be killed using a humane back-up stunning device (eg mechanical percussive (captive-bolt) stunner), which must always be nearby and available to the operators for immediate use. Companies may wish to consider adopting a system for personnel to record how many sick, injured or dead birds arrive at the unloading point. An animal welfare officer (AWO) should review the records.

If any apparently unconscious or apparently dead birds are discovered in containers at the time of unloading, operators should first confirm whether the bird is unconscious or dead. (Warm birds may be alive but unconscious and they should be assessed for indicators of life (breathing, corneal reflex). Cold-stressed birds can sometimes be cold-to-the-touch and stiff but may still be conscious and/or alive. Their breathing is likely to be of a very slow rhythm; checking whether they display a positive corneal reflex is likely to be a good method of assessing their condition.) If a bird is unconscious and it cannot be processed for consumption, personnel should dislocate the bird’s neck to ensure it dies, before disposing of the bird. Similarly, if a bird appears to be dead (cold) but if there is uncertainty as to whether it is actually dead, personnel should dislocate the bird’s neck to ensure it is dead, before disposing of the bird.


Video demonstrating captive-bolt stunning:

Note: the law regarding licensing and certification, in connection with the possession and use of captive-bolt equipment, may vary between countries and even within.  Users of captive-bolt equipment must be familiar with the statutory requirements relating to their particular situations.


Video demonstrating cervical (neck) dislocation: 



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