Beak Trimming: A Management Tool

Dr. Upasana Verma1, Dr. O.P. Dinani2, Dr. Sharad Mishra3, Dr. A.K. Santra4, Dr. V.N. Khune2 Dr. Nishma Singh2 and Dr. Rupal Pathak2
1. M.V.Sc. Scholar, Livestock Production Management Department, CGKV, Anjora, Durg
2. Assistant Professor, Livestock Production Management Department CGKV, Anjora, Durg
3. Professor and Head, Livestock Production Management Department CGKV, Anjora, Durg
4. Associate Professor, Livestock Production Management Department CGKV, Anjora, Durg


Beak trimming(debeaking) is a routine management practice performed in the poultry industry including laying hens, broiler breeders, turkeys, and ducks. Beak trimming is the removal of approximately one quarter to one third of the upper beak, or both upper and lower beak of a bird (Gentle et al., 1995). The beak of a laying hen is well innervated and contains nociceptors (sensation of pain), thermo-receptors (sensation of temperature), and mechanoreceptors (sensation of pressure and texture) (Gentle et al., 1989). Beak trimming therefore results in pain and sensory loss (Gentle, 2011). Beak is a sensitive tool generally used for grasping of food, preening, nest building, exploring objects in the environment, dust bathing and social interaction. beak trimming is generally performed with the purpose of reducing cannibalism and delaying the sexual maturity for optimum egg production. Beak trimming causes reduction in feed intake, Body weight gain, mortality, and affects some production parameters, such as feed conversion efficiency, the net effect of which is usually positive on profitability.The relative effect of beak trimming on bird well-being is influenced by multiple factors, including the proportion of beak tissue removed (Cheng, 2005). Beak trimming reduces feed intake, BW, mortality, and affects some production parameters, such as feed conversion efficiency, the net effect of which is usually positive on profitability..

Historical development of Beak trimming

History started when Paring of the tip of the top beak and beak burning was done by Kennard, 1920 then gas torch by T. E. Wolfe in the San Diego county in California followed by W.K. Hopper used tinner’s soldering iron in Ohio Experiment Station in the 1930s. Thereafter Lyon Electric Company took some modification in it and developed the very first – “debeaker” in 1942, followed by Sundaresen and Jayaprasad, 1979 in India.

Methods of Beak Trimming

1. Hot Blade Method– Heated blade which is often mechanized is used for trimming Claimed as most accurate method. Dark (dull) red heat temperature of 650-750°C, ‘guillotine’-type, blade that both cuts and cauterizes the beak tissue when birds are 5 to 10 days old.

2. Bio/Electric beak-trimming -Main target of this method is burn a hole in the upper beak at a point just beyond the horny projection so that tip of beak will die. Bio beaker used a high voltage arc (1500 Volt AC electric current) across two electrodes to burn a small hole in the upper beak of chickens in 0.25 second with capacity of 2000/hr.

3. Mechanical method– A simple blade or scissor device, such as secateurs, is used to trim the beak. This limits damage to the exact area of the cut may be the most precise method. These mechanical methods rely on human precision instead of machines and, therefore, may produce variable results.

4. Infra-red Method– Here non-contact, high intensity, infrared energy source i.e. laser beam is used to cut the beaks with a laser beam in day-old chickens. Qualified endorsement by the British Farm Animal Welfare Council as a preferred choice in terms of animal welfare because of absence of open wound (Farm Animal Welfare Council, 2007). The period of time they are held is short (approximately 15 seconds) and the restraint is firm.

Age of beak trimming
The most common ages for birds to be beak-trimmed are:
* Day-old
* 5–10 days old
* 4–6 weeks
* 10–12 weeks
Touch up trim of adult birds.


• Beak trimming improves feed efficiency and enhances the living environment.
• Minimizes aggressive pecking to the wattles, combs, feathers, feet, and vent regions. Ultimately, it minimizes the need for the culling of chickens.
• Beak trimming reduces feed intake and delays the sexual maturity and avoids feed wastage.
• Trimming of beak will increases egg production.
• Beak trimming reduces clinical welfare indicators such as plumage condition, keel bone fractures, keel bone deviations, skin wounds, and foot injuries.


• Beak-trimming may lead to unnecessary pain and loss of sensory function.
• Hens must adapt to a new beak form and therefore, feeding behavior is altered (i.e., the bird’s ability to consume feed is impaired).
• Beak trimming causes open wounds and bleeding, resulting in inflammation. Following healing, the tip stump may regrow and develop various irregularities in shapes and form scar tumors (Neuromas).

Alternatives to Beak Trimming

In some countries, beak trimming is banned and producers are forced to go for alternative measures to prevent cannibalism and other antagonistic behaviours. These alternatives include reducing light intensity so that birds can hardly see each other. This is only possible in houses where light can easily be controlled. Genetic manipulation, nutritional amendments like feeding of high fibre diet may lead to reduce cannibalism. The birds are introduced to enrichment devices at an early age. Enrichment devices are anything the birds can play with. others are use of spectacles, contact uses, use of hormones etc. Despite considerable, research, there is no acceptable alternative to beak trimming as a means of preventing pecking damage that is not also contentious.

Beak-trimming is currently considered to be a necessary management practice for poultry. But the future of beak trimming remains uncertain; however, research suggests that alternatives are available that would address much of the welfare concerns without resulting in radical or inefficient management changes. Thus it may be concluded that beak trimming is effective management tool to minimize cannibalism and following feed restriction programme to delay puberty and optimizes egg production for economic poultry production.

Angevaarea, M.J., Prinsa, S., Josef F., Staaya, V.D., Nordquist, R.D. 2012. The effect of maternal care and infrared beak trimming on development, performance and behavior of Silver Nick hens. Applied Animal Behaviour Science ,140 :70– 84.Cheng, H.2005. Morphopathological changes and pain in beak trimmed laying hens. World’s Poultry Science Journal, 62(1) : 41-52.

Gentle, M. J. 1989. Cutaneous sensory afferents recorded from the nervus intramandibularis of Gallus-Gallus var domesticus. J Comp Physiol A 164 :763–74.

Gentle, M. J. 2011.Pain issues in poultry.Appl Anim Behav Sci ,135:252–258.

Glatz, P.C. 1987. Effects of beak trimming and restraint on heart rate, food intake, body weight and egg production in hens, British Poultry Science, 28(4): 601-611.

Riber, A. B. & Hinrichsen, L. K. 2017. Welfare Consequences of Omitting Beak Trimming in Barn Layers. Frontiers in Veterinary Science,Literature Review on the Welfare Implications of Beak Trimming (February 7, 2010) American veterinary medicine association. Sandilands, V. and Savory, C.J. 2002. Ontogeny of behaviour in intact and beak trimmed layer pullets ,with special reference to preening. Brit Poult Sci; 43:182-189.


POULTRY PUNCH incorporated in 1984 and we are in poultry media since last 36 years and publish Poultry punch – English Monthly Magazine. Mr Balwant Singh Rana prior to laying the foundation of Poultry Punch magazine was still involved with renowned Indian poultry companies and It was there that he had the vision of doing something exceptional for the Indian poultry industry and then he stepped into the poultry media.

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