The Ideal Instrument for Debeaking the Birds

Ideally, debeaking machine (electric) should be used in debeaking the birds. However, this depends on the number of the birds. For instance, birds less than 200 pieces in number can be debeaked using a very hot knife. The use of scissors in really not advisable as the beaks can grow back very quickly.

Who does beak trimming?

Hot blade beak trimming is performed by contract teams, individual farmers and some large poultry companies. The majority of birds are trimmed by contract teams. Birds must be beak-trimmed by an accredited beak-trimmer to ensure that nationally agreed standards are maintained and the welfare of the birds is not compromised.

The infrared treatment machine is installed by the supplier and leased by hatcheries. It is monitored and controlled by the supplier via a communication system and on-site computer.

When is beak trimming done?

DebeakingInfrared beak trimming machine (photo courtesy of Peter Bell)

Beak trimming is carried out at various ages depending on the preference of the farm manager. The most common ages for birds to be beak-trimmed are:

  • Day-old (most common)
  • 5–10 days old
  • 4–6 weeks
  • 8–12 weeks
  • Touch up trim of adult birds (mainly in alternative systems)

How is beak trimming done?

An infrared beak trimming method, using a non-contact, high intensity, infrared energy source to treat the beak tissue, is the most common method now in use. Initially the beak surface remains intact but after a few weeks the sharp hook of the beak erodes.

Experiments have also been conducted using lasers for beak trimming, however this technology is not used for beak trimming on farms. A hot blade beak trimming machine, with an electrically heated blade, is another method that has been commonly used in the past, now being surpassed by infrared.

Debeaking Techniques

The different ways of trimming the beak of birds are:

  • Use of machine
  • Use of knife

How to Use the Debeaking Machine

automatic beak trimming machine
Automatic beak trimming machine

The debeaking machine makes it faster and easier to debeak chickens. There are automatic and semi-automatic poultry beak trimming machine. Follow the procedures below to use the automatic debeaking (beak trimming) machine.

  1. When the switch is turned on, adjust the temperature of the movable blade till it looks reddish or bright.
  2. When the movable blade glows, start the motor switch and the boat-shaped switch.
  3. Adjust the aperture of the micro cutter blade according to the beak size.
  4. Hold the chicken’s feet with the left hand, the neck with the right thumb, and pin the throat with the forefinger of the right hand. Stick the beak of the chicken into the aperture.
  5. Bleeding stops in 2 – 4 seconds after the movable blade drops.

How to Use the Debeaking Knife

You can use the normal kitchen knife to debeak your chickens. How to do this:

  1. You will need a partner to do this comfortably
  2. Place the knife on burning stove or coal and allow to be red hot
  3. Let your partner hold the chicken’s legs and hold the head (toward the mouth) of the chicken with one hand and gently cut the pointed tip of the chicken’s beak using the hot knife.
  4. Release the bird afterwards.

You can do this easily and faster by using an Handheld Electric Debeaking knife

Read Also: The Major Causes of Cannibalism among Poultry Birds

Handheld Electric Debeaker or Debeaking Knife
Handheld Electric Debeaker or Debeaking Knife

Handheld Electric Debeaker
Handheld Electric Debeaker

Rules in Debeaking or Beak Trimming

Before beak trimming:

    • Do not debeak birds if the flock is not in good health or if it is undergoing from vaccine reactions.
    • Add Vitamin K to the drinking water 48 hours prior to trimming and after to prevent haemorrhages.
    • Check the equipment and make sure that the trimming blade has the right temperature to cauterize, but not so high to form a blister on the beak later.

During beak trimming:

  • The operator should be installed and seated comfortably in such a way that each beak will be cut in the same manner.
  • Do not rush the process: a too high rate (number of birds/minute) could lead to a higher chance of errors and poor uniformity.
  • Clean the blades with sandpaper after use of 5,000 chicks or birds.
  • Make sure the tongue of the bird is not burned.

After beak trimming:

  • Increase the water level in the drinkers and the pressure in the pipes to make it easy for the birds to drink.
  • Make sure that the depth of the feed is adequate. Do not empty the feeders for a week following beak trimming.
  • It is important to give birds anti-stress or multivitamins before and after the operation so as to reduce the stress effect on the birds’ performance.

It is highly beneficial to debeak poultry birds to reduce mortality due to pecking, and wastage of feed to save cost.


Hot blade beak trimming versus infrared beak treatment

  Hot blade beak trimming Infrared beak treatment
  Advantages Disadvantage Advantages Disadvantages
Biosecurity   Beak trimmers move from farm to farm-potential biosecurity issues with personal hygiene and equipment cleanliness. Equipment located in clean hatchery. Staff maintain high levels of biosecurity.  
Bird catching   Birds can be stressed from catching and restraint on farm.    
Equipment set up Different set up for equipment when beak trimming different ages  of bird, shed type or location. Equipment located in hatchery. Settings adjusted easily using key pad on processor  
Trimming Experienced operators can judge amount of beak to remove. Accurate beak trimming minimises problems later in bird’s life. Physical damage to the birds while being handled for beak-trimming. Exposed cauterised wound. Potential for bleeding from beak. Excessive beak trimming can  impair beak function. Insufficient beak trimming results in beak regrowth. A predetermined amount of beak tissue is exposed to a defined amount of infrared energy. The exposed tissues remains intact and there are no open wounds or blood loss. Restrained by head on automated carousel for 15 seconds. Excessive energy can damage soft tissues and impair beak function. Insufficient beak treatment results in beak regrowth and the need to re-trim. Dark pigmentation in the beak can lead to split beaks.
Retrimming Birds can be re-trimmed at any age with the hot blade.     Re-trimming can only be performed with hot blade.
Quality of beak trimming Quality assurance checks on beaks have been documented in an accreditation program referred to in Australian Code of practice for Domestic Poultry.   In-house quality assurance program developed. Quality assurance program needs inclusion in Australian Code of Practice for Domestic Poultry.
Records Records kept on beak trimming quality and bird performance.   Records kept on beak trimming quality and bird performance.  
Evaluation Beak trimmers and farmers evaluate performance of birds after trimming.   In house records of beak treatment and bird performance.  
Summary Open wound, re-trimming commonly practiced to control pecking.

No open wounds; more reliable treatment, beak condition superior. If beaks regrow re-trimming required with hot blade to avert cannibalism.


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Benadine Nonye

An Agric. Consultant & a Writer (With over 12 years of professional experience in the agricultural industry) - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education... Visit My Websites On: - It's All About Agriculture, The Way Forward! - The Most Reliable Global Agricultural Forum! - The Most Reliable Nigeria's Agricultural Job Board! - For Everything Premium Agriculture! - For Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices. Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4ProfitsTV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

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