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What are the Pros and Cons of Chicken Debeaking?

What are the Pros and Cons of Chicken Debeaking?

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Chicken debeaking comes with a lot of controversies. The whole process involves the removal of part of the chicken’s upper or lower beak using electrically heated blades or infrared lasers.

However, the controversy comes when debeaking chickens. Some think it’s cruel and results in chronic pain for the chicks, but it merely the same pain level as trimming your fingernails.

This is when they are day old and vaccinated or sexed. The process is performed mostly on Red Sex-link hens or Leghorns raised for laying eggs.

Pros and Cons of Chicken Debeaking
Automatic Chicken Debeaking Machine

Below are the pros and cons of chicken debeaking:


Beak trimming not only stops a chicken from pecking one another.  It also promotes excessive mortality in egg production and, most significantly, the vicious habit of cannibalism.

Numerous studies have backed up the standard practice of beak trimming, suggesting that it benefits pullet egg production and broiler chickens for meat.

Also, this practice is effective when it comes to the reduction of feed consumption resulting in body weight loss as well as the improvement of feed wastage.

Beak trimming can also delay sexual maturity in your backyard flock. Most importantly, it improves egg production by minimizing hens eating their eggs.

Chicken debeaking will promote a positive attitude in your flock. This is true especially in breeds of chickens such as White Leghorn, where it reduces the loss of feathers by preventing pecking and fearfulness.

Considering the practice of beak trimming at the right time can help minimize some problems in your bird’s future life.

Which could affect the performance of your birds in general, whether they are free-range or in a chicken house?


Besides all the pros of chicken debeaking, there are a few cons. Animal welfare groups have criticized the practice, claiming that it is inhumane.

The groups further explain that by trimming your birds’ beaks. You are inflicting pain on them, and this can hurt their well-being.

Even though beak trimming solves many problems among poultry farmers. The practice is also destructive in one way or the other.

Your flock could show visible physical damage as a result of debeaking. This process causes wounds to the birds, leading to bleeding from their beaks.

The wounded areas can affect the feeding habits of your chickens. This can promote pecking from other birds due to open wounds around their beaks.

There are stories of excessive beak trimming. This could cause permanent impairment to the beak functionality. One should use a lot of care when performing beak trimming.

This will protect your birds against injuries and possible impairment. Insufficient beak trimming can lead to beak regrowth.

This means you will have to subject your bird to yet another session of debeaking. Which is painful, costly, and stressful to the affected chickens.

When is the Right Time to Perform Chicken Debeaking?

  • One day of age chicks (this is very common)
  • At 5 to 10 days of age
  • From 4 to 6 weeks old
  • From 8 to 12 weeks of age

How is Chicken Debeaking Performed?

The two known ways to debeak chickens include using infrared and hot blades. However, the infrared beak trimming technique uses a non-contact and high-intensity source of infrared energy.

The infrared treats the chicken’s beak tissue as part of the beak-trimming process.

Pros and Cons of Chicken Debeaking
Automatic Chicken Debeaking Machine

This method is so unique that the beak stays intact for a while (perhaps several weeks) before the sharp hook on the beak erodes and falls off.

This is a common method in the poultry industry. You will see this performed in big commercial egg-producing farms

Several experiments have been conducted using beams of lasers to perform upper-beak trimming. This technology is the newest and less widespread than infrared and hot blade beak trimming.

Another technique used in beak trimming is the hot blade chicken beak trimming machine. The electric debeaking machine has an electrically heated blade that cuts off the upper or lower part of the bird’s beak.

Currently, this method is being phased out as the infrared beak trimming takes effect.

Alternatives to Pros and Cons Chicken Debeaking

Even though chicken debeaking has pros and cons that have been practiced for decades. Some countries are banning it, citing the inhumane treatment chickens undergo during the process.

But all is not lost, given that a few production schemes support infrared partial beak amputation (top beak trimming – leaving the bottom beak) instead of the hot blade chicken debeaking method.

However, different organizations all over the world have urged researchers to identify practical, affordable, and effective alternative methods to chicken debeaking.

Specifically, one of those methods is selective breeding strategies that will produce strains without cannibalistic behavior.

On top of that, several nutritional, environmental, and management strategies are in place to offer alternative solutions to beak trimming methods.

Even if these new strategies are promoted, it remains uncertain whether feather pecking and cannibalism among chickens will be prevented.

Below are examples of the methods that are underway to replace chicken beak debeaking:

  • Genetic selection
  • Light control
  • Use of special devices that can restrict vision and use of beaks in chickens
  • Environmental enrichment
  • Use of the anti-pick compounds
  • Providing the birds with proper nutrition
  • Use of beak abrasive materials

Who Should Perform Beak Trimming?

Because of these pros and cons, not everyone can carry out the chicken debeaking exercise even though it looks simple.

Experienced individuals who are qualified to debeak should be used. Many of the chickens are debeaked by professional contract teams.

It has been suggested that any backyard chicken farmer that has less than 50 chickens to not debeak but use peepers.

Pros and Cons of Chicken Debeaking
Chicken Peepers Eye Glasses

If debeaking is your choice, you should only be debeaked by someone who is an accredited beak trimmer.

Also, this task is left to experienced individuals to ensure that the welfare of chickens/birds remains uncompromised.

The infrared beak trimming equipment is often installed by accredited suppliers and leased out to farmers by hatcheries when the need to use them arises.

The supplier monitors or controls the equipment through an on-site computer and a communication system.

Related Questions

What is the importance of not beak-trimming your chickens?

Let us say you are a backyard chicken farmer. You want your hens and roosters to scratch and peck in the yard. You want them to eat insects and easily consume table scraps. So, don’t debeak your chickens but use peepers.

Do you think chicken debeaking is the right thing to do if you are a farmer?

Yes. Debeaking comes with many benefits not only to the birds but to the farmer as well. The practice influences animal welfare, upholds consumer expectations, and improves production.

In Conclusion

We went into detail about the pros and cons of chicken debeaking. Debeaking your backyard chickens might bring benefits that protect the birds from pecking each other to death.

There are advocates in several countries that are not in favor of debeaking. Therefore, the general well-being of the birds is their concern during the debeaking process.

Debeaking can produce more eggs and healthier chickens. Although there are alternatives to debeaking, such as “peepers.” Peepers put a straight-ahead sight block.

This doesn’t affect their eating or vision in cold and hot weather. But the bottom line remains that debeaking is more beneficial than what other people think.

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What are the Pros and Cons to Chicken Debeaking?

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