Use Of Electrical Stunning Equipment

Annex 1, Chapter II of Council Regulation (EC) 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing states:

4    Head-only electrical stunning

4.1 When using head-only electrical stunning, electrodes shall span the brain of    the animal and be adapted to its size.

Check the electrodes are the correct size to fit across the head of each bird. Wearing a rubber glove, use one hand to hold the back or bottom of the bird’s head and then apply the electrodes firmly to either side of the head between the eye and ear. You must position the electrodes correctly so that the current flows through the brain and causes immediate unconsciousness.

Brain location

This diagram shows the position of the brain (coloured orange) in a chicken. The electrodes must be positioned to span the brain.



Electrical stunners for use on-farm are generally hand-held, with two electrodes which are placed across the bird's head (left-hand-side figure below).  Less common are single-electrode systems used in conjunction with an earthed shackle or similar alternative – these are only used for stunning turkeys.  In order to comply with the legislative requirements mentioned above, when stunning turkeys using a single-electrode system, the electrode should be placed on the side of the bird’s head, between the eye and the ear, to ensure the current flows directly through the brain to produce an effective stun and immediate loss of consciousness (right figure below).  Placing the electrode directly into the mouth through the beak is NOT compliant with legal requirements.

Correct positioning of twin (left-hand-side), and single (right), electrodes for electrical stunning.


Electrodes must never be placed across the neck as this may cause paralysis whilst the bird remains fully conscious and able to feel pain.

When you are certain you have good electrode contact in the correct position, press the switch to deliver the current without delay. Electrode applic

Check for signs of an effective stun. You may not see wing movement if the wings are restrained in a cone so you should look for the legs becoming rigid and extended.ation times vary according to the size and species of bird but, as a guide, electrodes should be applied for a minimum of seven seconds and at least until wing flapping stops. 

Signs Of An Effective Electrical Stun:

  • Neck arched with eyes fully open;
  • No rhythmic breathing immediately after the stun;
  • Rigidly extended legs;
  • Constant rapid body tremors;
  • Wings held close to the body (following initial uncontrolled bursts of flapping).


Checking Unconsciousness:

It is important to check unconsciousness by the absence of a blink reflex when the cornea (the surface of the eyeball) is touched. Presence of a blink reflex must be acted upon immediately: it may not indicate full consciousness but the return of this reflex after stunning is a sign of some brain function returning and it indicates the possibility that consciousness may also be returning. Do not hesitate to repeat the stun or use an alternative method.


Electrical stunning disrupts the normal co-ordination between brain activity and spinal reflexes, which results in uncontrolled wing flapping and body movement. Do not be alarmed by this involuntary movement, it is a sign of an effective stun and will continue in the unconscious bird until the spinal cord stops functioning. 

If the equipment fails to produce an effective stun, check the electrodes are being applied in the correct position for the correct time. Do not continue to use the stunner until it has been tested and you are sure it is functioning correctly. For your own safety, remove all jewellery before using electrical stunning equipment, wear rubber gloves and boots, avoid all contact with the live electrodes and observe the manufacturer’s operating instructions.

Immediately after electrical stunning, within 15 seconds, the bird must be killed by either neck-cutting or neck dislocation.


Next: Electrical Stunning Summary

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