Why your birds need beak trimming
Beak treatment is the physical removal of the top and bottom part of the beak of a bird.
It is commonly practised in commercial layer flocks to reduce damage caused by birds to each other later in life.
Why is beak trimming done?
Birds generally like to gently peck feathers of their peers in a normal social fashion (pecking order) without causing any bodily injury or damage, however, if this turns violent with cannibalism, bullying, feather and vent pecking then beak treatment is preferred in the early life to decrease such injuries.
If such birds are not treated, many deaths can occur rapidly to the levels of 25-30 per cent leading to huge financial losses.
When is beak trimming done?
Traditionally, beak trimming has been done at different early ages of a bird’s life before they come into egg production.
In the developed world, this act is mostly performed at day-old using an infrared beak treatment machine, while in less intensive operations in poor countries it is done between 8-12 weeks of age and a second light touch up is done just before the point of lay at 16 weeks.
Who does beak trimming?
In our local environment especially in high dense poultry farming region of Nairobi, Thika, Limuru and other urban areas, this service is done by individual poultry attendants who use hot iron blades to burn the long horny parts of the beak.
This method has disadvantages in that there are no agreed standards to adhere to and is at the mercy of the operator. In some big farms, they use electric pedal-operated beak trimmers which are manually operated.
In highly industrialised countries, Infrared beak trimming method using a non-contact, high intensity, infrared energy source to treat the beak tissue is now the most preferred.
Kenchic is one of the few companies using this technology.
Advantages of Infrared beak treatment
1. Equipment is located at the hatchery in a clean environment where staff have maintained high levels of bio-security and the equipment cleaned and disinfected on daily basis unlike in the farm where hot blade attendants move from farm to farm thus risk spreading diseases.
2. Infrared machine settings are adjusted using keypad on processor and operation done with minimal stress to the birds. In the hot blade system, adult birds are stressed during catching and restraint.
3. In Infrared system, a predetermined beak tissue is exposed to infrared energy and no open wounds and blood is seen, while in hot blade method, excessive bleeding is noticed with instant wounds that affect feed intake and may cause infection.
4. When Infrared is used, there is no need for re-trimming in the farm at all, while in the hot blade system if poorly done, re-trimming will be necessary with additional stress.
5. Finally, Infrared trimming ensures quality of work is good and uniform, while in the blade type it depends on the state of the individual, chicks that are last to be done are frequently poorly done due to natural fatigue of the operator.
6. Beak trimming if properly done reduces feather pecking, mortality, vent pecking and prolapse, bullying and stress on the birds.
7. On the other hand, poor beak trimming will result birds being unable to eat and drink comfortably, they will be permanently stressed and result into poor animal welfare and thus loss of status.