While the term debeak implies that the entire beak is removed, in fact usually less than a third of the upper beak is trimmed, and not the whole beak. They sometimes remove part of the lower beak too. Also, the entire issue of debeaking is very controversial, with animal welfare organizations worldwide calling for an end to the process, and commercial operators insisting it is essential for the viability of the industry and wellbeing of the chickens. This begs the question, what is a beak? The beak itself is covered with skin, and the keratin dries on the beak making it hard.

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Beak trimmers move from farm to farm-potential biosecurity issues with personal hygiene and equipment cleanliness. Equipment located in clean hatchery. Staff maintain high levels of biosecurity. Bird catching Birds can be stressed from catching and restraint on farm. Equipment located in hatchery. Settings adjusted easily using key pad on processor Trimming Experienced operators can judge amount of beak to remove. Physical damage to the birds while being handled for beak-trimming.

Exposed cauterised wound. Potential for bleeding from beak. Insufficient beak trimming results in beak regrowth. A predetermined amount of beak tissue is exposed to a defined amount of infrared energy. The exposed tissues remains intact and there are no open wounds or blood loss. Restrained by head on automated carousel for 15 seconds. Excessive energy can damage soft tissues and impair beak function. Insufficient beak treatment results in beak regrowth and the need to re-trim.

Dark pigmentation in the beak can lead to split beaks. Retrimming Birds can be re-trimmed at any age with the hot blade. Re-trimming can only be performed with hot blade. Quality of beak trimming Quality assurance checks on beaks have been documented in an accreditation program referred to in Australian Code of practice for Domestic Poultry.

In-house quality assurance program developed. Records Records kept on beak trimming quality and bird performance. Records kept on beak trimming quality and bird performance.

Evaluation Beak trimmers and farmers evaluate performance of birds after trimming. In house records of beak treatment and bird performance. Summary Open wound, re-trimming commonly practiced to control pecking. No open wounds; more reliable treatment, beak condition superior. If beaks regrow re-trimming required with hot blade to avert cannibalism. Alternatives to beak trimming Beak trimming has been banned in some European countries and others are working towards banning the practice, following an EU welfare directive on the issue.

Even before the EU directive was released, research was being undertaken to identify practical, effective and affordable alternatives to beak trimming. Selective breeding strategies are underway to produce strains that are not cannibalistic. In addition, a number of nutritional, management and environmental strategies are being promoted as an alternative to beak trimming.

The alternatives have some potential to be effective in various management situations, but there is no guarantee that cannibalism and feather pecking will be prevented. Genetic Selection There are large differences in feather pecking and mortality in strains indicating the potential for developing commercial strains that require less severe beak-trimming or no trimming at all.

Selection for low mortality reduces propensity of birds to develop feather pecking and cannibalism. Molecular technology has the potential for improving welfare by manipulating genes involved in the control of pecking behaviour. Light control Chickens have colour vision and different colours and light levels affect chicken behaviour. Green and blue light improves growth and lowers age at sexual maturity, while red, orange and yellow light increases age at sexual maturity and red and orange light increase egg production.

Birds are calmer in blue light. For many years it was practice to brood and rear chickens under red light to prevent cannibalism, based on the concept that red light makes it difficult for a potentially cannibalistic bird to see red blood vessels and blood on other birds.

Currently, the most useful method to prevent feather pecking and cannibalism is to house birds under very dim white light. The birds cannot see each other well which is thought to reduce aggressive behaviour among them. This requires light proof shedding, however low light levels can cause eye abnormalities. Use of devices to restricting vision and beak use The use of spectacles fitted to the nares of birds controls feather pecking. It only allows birds to look to the side or down but not directly ahead.

Spectacles can only be put on birds of pullet size or larger, cannot be used in cages and are easily dislodged. Red contact lenses have been used for layers as an alternative to beak-trimming. They cause eye irritation, eye infections, and abnormal behaviour and are not retained well. Bitting devices have been developed for use in game birds, which are held in place by lugs inserted in the nares.

The use of fitted devices as a preventative measure against feather pecking is not permitted in many countries. Enrichment involves increasing environmental complexity to encourage birds to interact with their environment.

Practical enrichment devices to minimise feather pecking A wide range of objects have been fitted to cages to enrich the environment for poultry. Likewise a small silver bell was found to attract pecking. Adult laying hens will peck at bunches of plain white propylene string, which reduces both gentle and severe feather pecking. Enriched rearing facility Less feather pecking in layers is seen if farmers do their own rearing, provide sufficient perch space, adequate drinkers and provide high quality litter.

Stimulating use of the range Infrequent and uneven use of the hen run is one of the main problems in all free range systems for laying hens. Birds do not feel safe in an open unroofed run area. When the range has cover, trees or hedges, birds are more evenly distributed and risk of feather pecking is reduced.

Using shade with free range flock Use of anti-pick compounds Applying anti-pick compounds commercial anti-pick, pine tar or axle grease to wounded areas reduces pecking. Likewise treating the everted vent of hens suffering vent trauma with a stock wound spray can prevent other birds pecking at the vent.

Incidence of vent trauma can be reduced by raising flocks of birds with an even body weight. A range of predator scents and other agents are being considered for use as repellents against predators and may have application to prevent feather pecking in layers. Nutrition The main strategy to prevent feather pecking is to provide an adequate substrate. Substrate conditions during the rearing period affect the development of feather pecking. Use of scratch grain is recommended. During the rearing period, placing semi-solid milk blocks in the house, hanging green leafy vegetables and spreading grass clippings can prevent feather pecking.

An adequate amount of insoluble fibre in the layer diet is important for minimising the outbreak of cannibalism in chickens. Millrun, oat hulls, rice hulls and lucerne meal are effective sources of fibre. The physical properties of the fibre modulate the function of the gizzard making the birds calmer.

Providing adequate calcium, manganese, arginine, zinc, protein, sulphur amino acids methionine and cysteine , trytophan, B group vitamins, thiamine and dietary electrolytes minimises pecking mortality. Beak abrasives Abrasive materials applied to the feed trough may enable the bird to blunt the hooked end of the beak while feeding and reduce the effectiveness of pecking.

The beak blunting technique can be applied to growing pullets and during the laying period. Utilising the blunting procedure early in the rearing period may prevent the formation of the hooked end of the beak. Summary When birds are not beak trimmed, increased incidences of mortality and morbidity will occur due to cannibalism.

Welfare problems associated with cannibalism can be devastating. When performed correctly to industry standards, beak trimming has advantages. These include reduced: Feather pecking.



Beak trimming in poultry management is the act of reducing the length of the beak of poultry birds. The purpose of doing this is to prevent feather pulling and cannibalism and to reduce feed wastage. It is a delicate operation, and if it is improperly done, it may leads to difficulties in drinking and eating, which directly leads to poor growth, unevenness in flock and even mortality as a result blood loss. The operation can be carried out at one week-old days and few weeks-old weeks. For precise beak trimming operation, the birds should be few weeks old weeks. The general disadvantage of debeaking or beak trimming is that, when it is improperly done, it could take long for the birds to regain body weight. Benefits or Advantages of Debeaking The advantages or benefits of debeaking your birds are as follows: To prevents wastage of feeds It reduces the incidence of pecking and cannibalism It reduces feather picking It makes handling of chicken easier Debeaking Techniques The different ways of trimming the beak of birds are: Use of machine How to Use the Debeaking Machine Automatic beak trimming machine The debeaking machine makes it faster and easier to debeak chickens.


Beak trimming

Pullet management should be designed with the goal of meeting the recommended body weight and uniformity as per the breed standards. If these goals are met the pullet will be more likely to express its genetic potential. A key factor influencing the capability of the birds to meet this goal is the quality of debeaking and age at debeaking. Cannibalism is prevalent among the chickens of all ages and debeaking is only the way to prevent it. It is a great financial loss to the farmers.

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