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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SAFEGUARDING WELL-BEING OF FOOD PRODUCING ANIMALS

Location: Livestock Behavior Research

Title: Pain in Chickens and Effects of Beak Trimming

Author
item Cheng, Heng Wei

Submitted to: American College of Poultry Veterinarians
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: April 12, 2010
Publication Date: April 18, 2010
Citation: Cheng, H. 2010. Pain in Chickens and Effects of Beak Trimming. In: American College of Poultry Veterinarians. Workshop Proceedings Laying Hen and Pullet Well-being, Management and Auditing, April 18, 2010, Vancouver, British Columbia, CA. p.20.

Interpretive Summary: Beak trimming is routinely practiced in the poultry industry to reduce the incidence of feather pecking, aggression, and cannibalism in layers, broiler breeders, turkeys, and ducks. A bird’s beak is a complex functional organ with an extensive nerve supply and various sensory receptors. Beak trimming may cause pain (acute, chronic or both) in trimmed birds due to tissue damage and nerve injury. The complexity and plasticity of the nervous system and the animal’s inability to communicate verbally make pain difficult to measure directly. However, pain in animals can be recognized and assessed using physiological and behavioral parameters in response to noxious events. When evaluating pain, it should be noted that beak trimming-induced pain in birds is genetic-, lesion-, and age-dependent. Based on currently available data, to minimize pain, especially chronic pain, a moderate beak trimming should be performed at hatch or within 10 days of age. In addition, infrared trimming is an improvement in existing beak trimming practices in terms of chicken welfare. The information provided in the article should be useful for poultry producers to develop management programs and for scientists to plan or interprete their studies.

Technical Abstract: Beak trimming may cause pain (acute, chronic or both) in trimmed chickens due to tissue damage and nerve injury. The complexity and plasticity of the nervous system and the animal’s inability to communicate verbally make pain difficult to measure directly. However, pain in animals can be recognized and assessed using physiological and behavioral parameters in response to noxious events. When evaluating whether an animal is experiencing pain, it should be noted that beak trimming-induced pain in birds is lesion- and age-dependent. In addition, infrared beak treatment is an improvement in existing beak trimming practices in terms of chicken welfare.

Last Modified: 9/22/2014