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ARS Home » Midwest Area » West Lafayette, Indiana » Livestock Behavior Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #251035

Title: Effects of Different Infrared Beak Treatment Protocols on Chicken Welfare and Physiology

item Dennis, Rachel
item Cheng, Heng Wei

Submitted to: Poultry Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/1/2010
Publication Date: 7/11/2010
Citation: Dennis, R.L., Cheng, H. 2010. Effects of Different Infrared Beak Treatment Protocols on Chicken Welfare and Physiology [abstract]. Poultry Science. 89:261 (E-Suppl. 1).

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Infrared beak treatment (IR) provides an alternative to the conventional hot blade beak trimming (HB), which purports to be more welfare friendly. To improve the efficiency of the IR system, different interface plates (25/23C and 27/23C) and lamp power settings (44, 48 and 52) were tested in this study. Infrared beak treatment was conducted at the hatchery and HB was performed at 7 to 10 days of age in a commercial setting. Physiological and behavioral measures were taken at 5, 10, 20 and 30 weeks of age after beak trimming (BT). Although all birds followed a similar growth curve, IR birds using 27/23C-48 protocol were the heaviest at 10, 20 and 30 weeks of age. Alternately, birds using the 25/23C-44 protocol were the lightest at 20 and 30 weeks of age. Upper and lower beak growth curves were also established showing birds trimmed with 25/23C interface plates to have a shorter upper and lower beak compared with 27/23C or HB trimmed birds. Birds trimmed using 27/23-44 and -48 consistently had the longest upper and lower mandibles among all birds. Among the treated birds, feed wasted was greatest in HB and 27/23C-52 birds and tended to be less than HB in 27/23-48 and 25/23-48 and -52 trimmed birds (P<0.10). Behavior analysis revealed that, compared to HB birds, birds treated using 27/23C protocols walked and drank more (P<0.05). Feather scores (FS) taken at 20 and 30 weeks showed higher breast FS in HB and 25/23C-44 birds compared to those of 27/23C birds (P<0.05). Back FS was the highest in 25/23C-48 birds compared to the birds trimmed using HB or other IR protocols (P<0.05). At 5 and 10 weeks of age, 27/23C-44 and -48 birds pecked significantly more at the novel object (a synthetic feather) than the birds trimmed using HB or other IR protocols (P<0.05). However, HB and 25/23C birds had the highest synthetic feather damage score (P<0.05). Our data show evidence that welfare and traits affecting feed efficiency can be improved with IR over HB in laying hens and that the IR protocol used can be adjusted to optimize these measures.