Changes in Behaviour of Laying Hens Following Beak Trimming at Hatch and Re-trimming at 14 Weeks

  • Jongman, E.C. (Animal Welfare Science Centre, Department of Primary Industries, Primary Industry Research Victoria) ;
  • Glatz, P.C. (Animal Welfare Science Centre, Department of Primary Industries, Primary Industry Research Victoria) ;
  • Barnett, J.L. (Animal Welfare Science Centre, Department of Primary Industries, Primary Industry Research Victoria)
  • Received : 2006.03.06
  • Accepted : 2007.04.26
  • Published : 2008.02.01


For many years beak trimming has been a controversial subject, particularly since the 1980's when the practice came under close scrutiny by animal welfare groups. In Australia it is considered an essential practice, averting losses of AUD$17.5m annually by reducing mortality from cannibalism. While mortality in flocks from cannibalism can be reduced from 25% of the flock to virtually nil, the beak trimming procedure is considered traumatic for the bird. This study examined if chronic pain in the beak was evident in birds 10, 20 and 60 weeks after being trimmed at hatch and in another group of birds, 8 and 52 weeks after being re-trimmed at 14 weeks. Chronic pain was assessed by measuring pecking behaviour and beak sensitivity responses. Pecking behaviour studies completed after beak trimming and re-trimming showed no evidence to indicate that birds were suffering severe chronic pain in the beak. Beak trimmed pullets pecked more at the cage and had more toe pecks, yet overall pecks made at the feed and the environment were no different than untrimmed controls. While the beak sensitivity studies provided evidence that the beak of birds trimmed at hatch and also re-trimmed at 14 weeks may be more sensitive there was no evidence that re-trimming resulted in a more sensitive beak than birds trimmed at hatch only. These studies have shown that birds which are beak trimmed and re-trimmed return to apparently normal feeding and pecking behaviour in the long term. However, there was limited evidence that beaks of trimmed birds have an altered threshold to potentially painful stimuli.


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