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Debeaking, also called 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 very delicate operation, and if it is improperly done, it may lead to difficulties in drinking and eating, which directly leads to poor growth, affect uniformity in the flock, and even mortality as a result of blood loss.

This operation can be carried out at one week old (7-9 days) and a few weeks old (8-10 weeks). The advantage of debeaking at one week old is that the operation would have a minimum effect on the chick’s body weight and it is not necessary to carry it out again a second time during the rearing period (however from experience twice is more common during the rearing period, especially for layers)

Debeaking Broilers may not be necessary as they are raised for a maximum of 3 months. At this age, they are likely to cause less harm to one another. However, Cockerels and layers should be debeaked as they are kept for a longer period.

The major reason for debeaking Cockerels is to prevent pecking and its attendant problems while Layers are debeaked to prevent them from pecking and also before the start of lay to prevent egg and vent pecking.

Why Should I Debeak?

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 beak trimming, suggesting that it is beneficial to the pullet production criteria.

– Also, this practice is effective when it comes to the reduction of feed consumption as well as the improvement of feed efficiency.

– Most importantly, it improves egg production because it minimizes cases of hens eating their eggs. Also issues of cannibalism for young layers experiencing prolapse, because at the sight of blood on a bird’s vents, the others start pecking until the bird loses blood and can die.

– 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.

Who Should Perform Beak Trimming?

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 (you can consult a vet or animal scientist in your area or well-trained personnel). It has been suggested that any backyard chicken farmer that has less than 50 chickens not debeak but use peepers 

Peepers, also known as blinders, are devices fitted to, or through, the beaks of poultry to block their forward vision and assist in controlling feather pecking, cannibalism and sometimes egg-eating.

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Equipment For Debeaking

  • Automatic Debeaking Machine
  • Hand-Held Electric Debeaker

Electric debeaking machine: The debeaking machine makes it faster and easier to debeak chickens. There are automatic and semi-automatic poultry beak trimming machines.

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The Electric handheld debeaker. also uses electricity as the other kind of. The purpose of the electricity is to heat the debeaking blade which sterilizes the Debeaker and burns the beak bud to limit regrowth as well as reduce blood loss

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Rules in Debeaking or Beak Trimming

Before beak trimming:

– Do not debeak birds if the flock is not in good health or if it is undergoing some vaccine reactions or has just recently undergone a stressful process.

– Debeaking is a very stressful process for the bird hence, it is necessary to reduce the process of picking the birds to a very minimal level. Running and chasing the birds can increase their stress level.

– Be careful with the birds and ensure that the poultry house is calm.

– Be sure that the debeaking machine is in proper working condition. 

– The blade of the machine should be hot enough for a quick process. This will help reduce the pain the birds will go through. 

– Check the equipment and make sure that the trimming blade has the right temperature to cauterize, but not so high to form a blister on the beak later.

During beak trimming:

– The operator should be installed and seated comfortably in such a way that each beak will be cut in the same manner.

– Do not rush the process: a too high rate (number of birds/minute) could lead to a higher chance of errors and poor uniformity.

– Clean the blades with sandpaper after the use of 5,000 chicks or birds.

– Make sure the tongue of the bird is not burned, Ensure to pull the birds’ tongues backwards by holding their throat to avoid serious damage. Cutting the tongue is as good as killing the birds.

– Do not cut the beak too short or close to the nostril. Cutting it too close can damage the bird’s smell organ.

After beak trimming:

– Increase the water level in the drinkers and the pressure in the pipes to make it easy for the birds to drink.

– Make sure that the depth of the feed is adequate. Do not empty the feeders for a week following beak trimming.

– Administer multivitamins that are rich in vitamin K to the birds. Vitamin K is a vitamin supplement that helps blood clotting. This will help the birds heal fast in case of injury during the debeaking process. The multivitamin can be administered two days before the process and after too.

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Finally, It is highly beneficial to debeak poultry birds to reduce mortality due to pecking, and wastage of feed to save cost. In a free-range poultry system, there is no need to cut the birds’ beaks as there is enough space for the birds to move around and avoid each other.

Questions and Answers

Q: Can I use peepers in the battery cage?
A: It depends on the number of birds you have. It is usually more appropriate to use if you have less number of birds like 50, and yes it can be used as long as you want. You can also only decide to use it if you notice any form of cannibalism among them

Q: Is it possible to use and re-use the blinders
A: Yes it is

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3 thoughts on “Debeaking: An Important Management Practice in Poultry

  1. Aaj Ka Haal says:

    nicely explained. Shared it on my facebook account. aaj ka haal

  2. Isabel Fletcher says:

    I’m always fascinated by such informative posts, and your latest posts are always fascinating read. The way you simplify complex concepts is truly commendable. Keep up the stellar work! By the way I am a Senior Researcher @ (Clickmen™)

  3. Amoo Oyebamiji says:

    You didn’t tell us if we are to trim the upper beak or the lower beak,then at what proportion,I think this is important

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