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Have you prepared for the ban on beak trimming?

News - placed on 29/03/2017

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes



There has been much to do about beak trimming in recent years. The topic has caused a great deal of controversy. As of 1 September 2018, a ban on keeping hens with trimmed beaks will take effect.


Feather pecking

Beak trimming is the removal of the sharp end of beak. It prevents chickens from feather picking, which is a way for the chickens to explore each other and their surroundings. Feather picking also serves to establish pecking order and authority.


Feather pecking is not a problem when chickens are kept recreationally (small scale). In the commercial poultry sector, however, chickens are kept in large numbers, in which case a small change in behaviour can lead to serious damage. When feather pecking gets out of hand it can lead to small wounds, leading to cannibalism and a high mortality rate (25-30%) in the worst-case scenario. All in all feather pecking is a major threat to both animal welfare and economic results.

A hen with a trimmed beak


Feather pecking can have multiple causes: a feed shortage, boredom, or simply no reason. As soon as a chicken gets a small wound, it may attract multiple chickens, as they are attracted by the colour red. Once a certain behaviour pattern has been established within a flock, it is very difficult to break; and that includes feather pecking.


What does the beak trimming ban involve?

Mounting pressure from society (politics, animal protection groups and citizens) will soon bring about the end of beak treatment. This will benefit the welfare of 56 million hens, roosters and turkeys annually. Beak trimming is a stressful experience as the tip of the beak contains nerves and senses.


Soon the beak trimming ban will take effect in the Netherlands. It stipulates that only hens with untreated beaks may be kept.


Germany banned beak trimming earlier this year. Norway, Finland, Sweden, Austria and Germany had already banned the practice; which is actually not prohibited by European legislation.



Could lighting be the solution?

To prevent feather pecking, adaptations in livestock housing will have to be implemented. One option is possible measures with regard to feed and housing. Lighting is an important aspect of housing. HATO Agricultural Lighting – a specialist in the field of agricultural lighting solutions – works and thinks with you to optimise the lighting in your livestock housing.


In anticipation of the new regulation many poultry farmers and companies on its periphery are looking at options for various types of lighting management. A fixture that flickers will cause a lot of stress for the birds. It is very important to have flicker-free lighting in the barn. They are trying to influence hens' behaviour through monochromatic colour lighting (light consisting of a single wavelength).



Colour lighting

Different light colours have different effects on poultry behaviour. Red, for instance, is a popular colour that is often used in case of feather pecking. Red is said to prevent exacerbation of the situation because distinctive red blood stains and small wounds disappear under red lighting. Green light, on the other hand, is said to possibly stimulate scratching behaviour. The addition of ultraviolet A (UV-A) is reported to stimulate social behaviour due to the visibility of patterns on the plumage thanks to the presence of ultraviolet wavelengths. Blue may influence layer hens' activity levels.


A hen with an untreated beak


Monochromatic colour lighting or simulating natural light?

Monochromatic colour lighting, which consists of a single wavelength, is actually completely different from natural light, which is made up of a broad spectrum. The use of monochromatic light reduces poultry sight because only a single wavelength is available. Offering a light spectrum that approximates natural daylight more closely optimises poultry sight because a broad spectrum is made available.


The use of monochromatic light is an option, in case of proven efficacy, for the prevention of feather pecking or the limitation of damage due to feather pecking. On the other hand, reducing poultry sight may cause stress and therefore feather pecking. Using the most natural light spectrum possible is preferable with a view to providing an optimal, stress-preventing habitat for layer hens.



The way forward

As of 1 September 2018, keeping hens with trimmed beaks will be prohibited in the Netherlands. Housing should be optimally prepared for the beak trimming ban in order to prevent unwanted behaviour.


We always advise a broad light spectrum that imitates natural daylight. In case of any unwanted behaviour, multicolour lighting may offer a solution. As a last resort, a switch to monochromatic lighting (red, green, or blue) may be considered. Our CORAX and PULSA products offer this functionality. This LED lighting is available in various colour combinations.


The right lighting can contribute to the prevention of feather pecking. If you have any questions on this topic, or would like to find out more about optimal lighting in poultry housing, please contact us or request a free lighting plan. We are happy to help!

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