Beak Trimming Handbook for Egg Producers: Best Practice for Minimising Cannibalism in Poultry

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Germany banned conventional battery cages from , five years earlier than required by the EU Directive, [15] and has prohibited enriched cages from Switzerland banned battery cages from 1 January ; it was the first country to impose such a ban. The passage of California Proposition 2 aimed, in part, to reduce or eliminate the problems associated with battery cages, by setting the standard for space relative to free movement and wingspan, rather than cage size. Battery cages are also illegal in Michigan due to HB , passed in , which mandates that certain farm animals have enough room to stand up, lie down, turn around and extend their limbs, rather than being confined in tiny cages.

In Ohio, there is a moratorium on permits for the construction of new battery cages as of June Oregon SB also banned battery cages and set forth a transition to enriched colony cages, doubling the space per egg-laying hen. The 'Code of Practice' permits the use of battery cages. A written commitment by the Federal government to review the practice was scheduled in ; there was no further communication. During the state government of Tasmania was planning to phase out battery cages and budgeting for financial compensation for affected farmers but this was scrapped following the election.

There are several welfare concerns regarding the battery cage system of housing and husbandry.

You Won’t Believe How Eggs Are Made

These are presented below in the approximate chronological order they would influence the hens. Due to modern selective breeding , laying hen strains are different from those of meat production strains. Male birds of the laying strains do not lay eggs and are unsuitable for meat production, therefore, they are culled soon after being sexed , often on the day of hatching.

Animal rights groups have used videos of live chicks being placed into macerators as evidence of cruelty in the egg production industry. To reduce the harmful effects of feather pecking , cannibalism and vent pecking , most chicks eventually going into battery cages are beak-trimmed. This is often performed on the first day after hatching, simultaneously with sexing and receiving vaccinations. Beak-trimming is a procedure considered by many scientists to cause acute pain and distress with possible chronic pain; it is practised on chicks for all types of housing systems, not only battery cages.


At approximately 16 weeks of age, pullets hens which have not yet started to lay are placed into cages. Animal welfare scientists have been critical of battery cages because of these space restrictions [36] and it is widely considered that hens suffer boredom and frustration when unable to perform these behaviours.


To reduce the harmful effects of feather pecking, cannibalism and vent-pecking, hens in battery cages and other housing systems are often kept at low light intensities e. Low light intensities may be associated with welfare costs to the hens as they prefer to eat in brightly lit environments [38] and prefer brightly lit areas for active behaviour but dim less than 10 lux for inactive behaviour. Being indoors, hens in battery cages do not see sunlight.

Whilst there is no scientific evidence for this being a welfare problem, some animal advocates indicate it is a concern. Several studies have indicated that toward the end of the laying phase approximately 72 weeks of age , a combination of high calcium demand for egg production and a lack of exercise can lead to osteoporosis. This can occur in all housing systems for egg laying hens, but is particularly prevalent in battery cage systems where it has sometimes been called 'cage layer osteoporosis'.

Fractures may occur whilst the hens are in the cage and these are usually discovered at depopulation as old, healed breaks, or they might be fresh breaks which occurred during the process of depopulation. One study showed that However, hens from battery cages experienced fewer old breaks Flocks are sometimes force moulted, rather than being slaughtered, to reinvigorate egg-laying. Some flocks may be force moulted several times. The alternative most often employed is to slaughter the hens instead of moulting them. The Scientific Veterinary Committee of the European Commission stated that "enriched cages and well designed non-cage systems have already been shown to have a number of welfare advantages over battery systems in their present form".

A recent review of welfare in battery cages made the point that such welfare issues are problems of management, unlike the issues of behavioural deprivation, which are inherent in a system that keeps hens in such cramped and barren conditions. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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Battery cages for civets reared for kopi luwak coffee production. Play media. This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. September Laws prohibiting battery cages. Moratorium on permits for new battery cage construction. Main article: Chick culling.

Main article: Debeaking. Main article: Forced moulting. Quality control of beak trimming is addressed, enabling egg producers to be certain that beak trimming equipment is properly set up, that birds are handled and trimmed according to best practice and farm biosecurity is maintained. Management of birds following beak trimming is covered in detail to protect the welfare of the birds and to ensure maximum productivity. The book briefly explores the welfare issues around beak trimming and discusses how proper training can ensure that welfare standards are maintained.

The benefits and detriments from beak trimming are reviewed in light of comments from experienced beak trimmers, egg producers and veterinary and industry consultants in Australia. Industry based information is provided on current methods of beak trimming, costs of trimming and ways to reduce the use of trimming. Alternatives to beak trimming are canvassed to understand how the use of fitted devices, enrichment devices, abrasives, low lighting and the choice of low-pecking strains of birds can reduce the need for beak trimming.

Finally, the book discusses strategies for minimising cannibalism and how the strategy chosen may be documented and justified. Newsletter Google 4. Help pages. Prothero Michael J. Benton Richard Fortey View All. Go to British Wildlife. Conservation Land Management. Go to Conservation Land Management. Fresh pasture cover and availability of fodder on the range is a requirement mentioned in most accreditation guidelines [ 2 , 4 , 19 ]. For example, the Australian standards for free-range egg production as required by FREPA state that the range area must be capable of continued production of vegetation and that the land where hens are permitted to range must have shade, shelter and palatable vegetation.

Australian Certified Organic stipulates that the range for organic certified hens shall include edible forage at all times [ 19 ].

A number of plant species have been reported as growing on range areas on farms identified for this study. Responses indicated some variations in sown plant species reflecting the differences in climatic and soil conditions across Australia. Furthermore, there were 35 weed species growing on the range with some found to have a wide geographic distribution across the farms. A potential feature of access to outdoor areas is the availability of supplementary feed items, whether animal, vegetable or mineral [ 23 — 27 ].

All farmers indicated ingestion of range components in this study. However, quantification of range components is difficult. The pastures need to be evaluated for their nutritive value and intake by the hens quantified in order to make adjustments to feed formulations. Information on quality and biodiversity of the range area, stocking density, and behavioural factors such as the willingness and ability of the birds to move over the range area and select from its resources becomes essential to free-range management. Hence, the freedom of choice results in the development of several sub-populations within one flock [ 32 ].

The need for alternative feeding strategies is reflected in on-farm practices, which include feed supplementation with shell grit, limestone, hay, silage, and others including vegetables, pasture, insects, and harvested grass. Excessive pasture intake can result in reduced consumption of a balanced diet, leading to reduced intake of energy and essential nutrients such as amino acids, and leading to malnutrition and severe loss of body condition in sub-clinical cases, and death in severe cases.

Range usage can also frequently be associated with intestinal grass impaction [ 17 , 33 ]. Nearly In order to minimise the intake of excessive fibre materials such as long grass, range management such as mowing or co-grazing with cattle or sheep should be considered.

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The focus on hen welfare is reflected in concern about severe feather pecking and cannibalism and the various methods of beak trimming [ 20 , 34 ]. Based on information provided by the respondents, half of the free-range farms did not beak-trim their hens. Both the Australian Model Code of Practice and the FREPA standards support minimal beak trimming by competent persons qualified under the national competency standards [ 2 , 4 ]. Therefore, the practice of infrared trimming at day one and additional hot blade trimming later in life is common in Australian laying hens. However, some certifying organisations do not allow for beak-trimming, which could be attributed to occurrence of aggression, severe feather pecking, and cannibalism on some free-range farms.

Proactive health management and good biosecurity is important in free-range poultry production especially due to the restriction on use of in-feed antibiotics. Free-range poultry production has been implicated in the increased likelihood of contact between chickens and wild birds, thus potentially increasing the risk of Avian Influenza introduction and outbreaks [ 35 ].

Ground and surface water pollution can occur through leaching when the nutrient and trace elements in manure get accumulated in the soil. High levels of these nutrients and elements can be toxic to vegetation [ 36 ].

Moulting and other feather loss in poultry

In order to minimize adverse environmental impacts, factors such as the type of vegetation species, level of ground cover, stocking rates on range and manure management practices need to be evaluated across a wide range of Australian climatic conditions and soil types and best practices put in place in order to maintain long-term sustainability and social acceptance of free-range production.

Customer demand and consumer sentiment are amongst the major factors for farmers to establish free-range production systems. However, a comprehensive and informative platform for first-time and long-term free-range farmers is one of the gaps that exist in the industry. Ninety percent of respondents admitted to having to learn new skills and almost all commented on a lack of related training, education material and personnel for consultation.

Although training is available for intensive free-range systems, there is not much offered that is targeted at semi-intensive mobile free-range systems.

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Moreover, new scientifically validated information created for the intensive free-range sector on a regular basis, is not transferrable to these semi-intensive systems, specifically the mobile systems. Although this study has attempted to document the practices, other studies are needed to conduct a census and record all enterprises that fall under this category.

It is an important section of the industry and needs to be accounted for, to realise the full scope of egg production in Australia. No scientifically validated research has been conducted to optimise the climate control, nesting and feeding in the mobile housing systems and to determine their effects on nutrition, health and welfare of birds. Range usage has been reported to be high in these systems with majority of birds accessing the range area and a large proportion of the outdoor range area being utilised.

Dilution of allocated feed rations by elements consumed on range along with extra requirements due to temperature maintenance and increased physical activity need to be taken into account while formulating diets for free-range birds.