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 that are raised for laying eggs.
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 is beneficial to pullet egg production as well as 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 because it minimizes cases of hens eating their own 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.
- Taking into account 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 free-range or in a chicken house?
- Besides all the pros about chicken debeaking, there are a few cons. Animal welfare groups have criticized the practice, claiming that it is inhuman. The groups further explain that by trimming your birds’ beaks. You are inflicting pain on them and this can have a negative impact on their well-being.
- Even though beak trimming to solve 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 the presence of 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 that 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 the use of infrared and hot blade. However, the infrared beak trimming technique uses a non-contact and high-intensity source of infrared energy. The infrared plays the role of treating the chicken’s beak tissue as part of the beak trimming process.
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
There have been several experiments conducted using beams of lasers to perform upper beak trimming. This technology is the newest and not so widespread compared to 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. At the moment this method is being phased out as the infrared beak trimming takes effect.
Alternatives to Pros and Cons Chicken Debeaking
Despite the fact that there are pros and cons of chicken debeaking that has 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 are in support of infrared partial beak amputation (top beak trimming – leaving the bottom beak) as opposed to 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 the use of selective breeding strategies that will produce strains without cannibalistic behavior. On top of that, there are several nutritional, environmental, and management strategies 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 once and for all.
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 so 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.
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 as a way of ensuring that the welfare of chickens/birds remains uncompromised.
More often than not, the infrared beak trimming equipment is installed by accredited suppliers and leased out to farmers by hatcheries when the need to use them arises. The equipment is monitored or controlled by the supplier through an on-site computer and a communication system.
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 a whole lot of benefits not only to the birds but to the farmer as well. The practice influences animal welfare, uphold the consumers’ expectations and improves production among other things.
We went into detail about the pros and cons of chicken debeaking. Debeaking your backyard chickens might bring a few benefits that protect the birds from pecking each other to death. There are advocates in several countries that not in favor of debeaking. Therefore, the general well being of the birds is their concern during the process of debeaking. 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 there eating or vision in both cold and hot weather. But the bottom line remains that debeaking is more beneficial than what other people think.