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ARS Home » Midwest Area » West Lafayette, Indiana » Livestock Behavior Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #161163


item Cheng, Heng Wei
item Horn, Nathan
item Wilcox, Clair

Submitted to: International Society of Applied Ethology
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/8/2004
Publication Date: 8/3/2004
Citation: Cheng, H., Horn, N.L., Wilcox, C.S. 2004. Infarared beak treatment vs. hot-blade beak trimming effects on laying hen well-being. International Society of Applied Ethology. 38:195.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Beak trimming (also named beak tipping, beak mutilation, debeaking or partial beak amputation), removal of 1/3 to 1/2 of the beak, is a routine practice in the poultry industry to prevent feather pecking and cannibalism in layers, broiler breeders, and turkeys. However, there is considerable disparity of views on beak trimming among different social and professional groups, and there is a growing movement against husbandry practices which may cause pain and suffering in farm animals, including beak trimming. The infrared beak system produces a high intensity heat that penetrates through the corneum layer down to the corneum growing basal tissue to burn the tip of beak and to stop germ layer growth. Infrared beak treatment may be an alternative to hot-blade beak cutting. The current study was designed to investigate whether there are different effects of infrared beak treatment and hot-blade beak trimming on chicken well-being. White Leghorns (Hy-Line W-36) were used in the study. Forty-eight chicks were randomly divided into three groups (n=16), i.e., control, infrared beak treatment, and hot blade beak trimming. Beaks were trimmed at 1 day of age. The chicks were housed in the same room following standard managerial guidelines. Birds' behavior was observed daily via direct observation, and a warm-water pain test (45OC) was performed at 2 and 5 weeks post-treatment. The data showed that compared to hot-blade beak trimming, infrared beak treatment caused less gross beak damage, and less effects on general behavior, such as less changes in eating and drinking (ANOVA, P<0.05). Infrared treated birds also exhibited few pain behaviours following a warm water pain test (ANOVA, P<0.01). These results suggest that infrared beak treatment may be a wellbeing-friendly alternative to hot-blade beak trimming in laying hens.