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 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 (7-9 days) and few weeks-old (8-10 weeks). The advantage of debeaking at one-week-old is that, the operation would have a minimum effect on chick’s body weight and it is not necessary to carry it out again a second time during the rearing period.
For precise beak trimming operation, the birds should be few weeks old (8-10 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.
Debeaking Broilers may not be necessary as they raised for maximum of 3months. 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 of time.
The major reason for debeaking Cockerels is to prevent pecking and its attendant problems while Layers are debeaked to prevent them from pecking and from also breaking their legs.
Some farmers do debeak the birds in the first few days of life or any time after ten weeks. It is better done before the birds start laying or any time signs of pecking is noticed on the birds.
Advantages of 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 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.
- Beak trimming can also delay sexual maturity in your 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?
Disadvantages of Debeaking
- Contrary to the positive contributions brought about by chicken debeaking. 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 to them and this can have a negative impact on their wellbeing.
- Even though beak trimming to solve many problems among poultry. 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 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.
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. It has been suggested that any backyard chicken farmer that has less than 50 chickens to not debeak but use peepers
Equipment For Debeaking
Automatic Debeaking Machine
2. Hand-Held Debeaking Machine
How to Use the Debeaking Machine
The debeaking machine makes it faster and easier to debeak chickens. There are automatic and semi-automatic poultry beak trimming machines. Follow the procedures below to use the automatic debeaking (beak trimming) machine.
- When the switch is turned on, adjust the temperature of the movable blade till it looks reddish or bright.
- When the movable blade glows, start the motor switch and the boat-shaped switch.
- Adjust the aperture of the micro cutter blade according to the beak size.
- Hold the chicken’s feet with the left hand, the neck with the right thumb, and pin the throat with the forefinger of the right hand. Stick the beak of the chicken into the aperture.
- Bleeding stops in 2 – 4 seconds after the movable blade drops.
How to Use the Debeaking Knife
You can use the normal kitchen knife to debeak your chickens. How to do this:
- You will need a partner to do this comfortably
- Place the knife on burning stove or coal and allow to be red hot
- Let your partner hold the chicken’s legs and hold the head (toward the mouth) of the chicken with one hand and gently cut the pointed tip of the chicken’s beak using the hot knife.
- Release the bird afterwards.
You can do this easily and faster by using an Handheld Electric Debeaking knife
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 from vaccine reactions.
- Add Vitamin K to the drinking water 48 hours prior to trimming and after to prevent haemorrhages.
- 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 use of 5,000 chicks or birds.
- Make sure the tongue of the bird is not burned.
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.
- It is important to give birds anti-stress or multivitamins before and after the operation so as to reduce the stress effect on the birds’ performance.
It is highly beneficial to debeak poultry birds to reduce mortality due to pecking, and wastage of feed to save cost.