In Summary
  • Now, just to be clear, the word “debeaking” can mislead. It could imply removing the entire beak, which can be deadly.
  • Pecking and other forms of cannibalism are easier to prevent than to treat.
  • Avoid using the ordinary pair of scissors, knife or hot blades as these can cause physical damage and bleeding.
  • Another thing I have learnt is that sometimes one needs to re-trim if the beaks grow back enough to cause pecking damage.

Once beaten, twice shy, so goes the popular saying.

My chicks have just turned seven weeks old, which is a major milestone, but I am not taking any chances considering the losses I incurred last year.

I have already administered the two Gumboro vaccines, the first Newcastle vaccine and just a week ago, the fowl pox vaccine.

I have also ensured they have access to adequate good quality feeds and clean water.

Now, I’m not stopping there. Last week, I took a break from the shots to do something else that many farmers ignore at their peril.

The farm manager sent me this text message, “About 80 per cent of the flock has been cut.” Okay, what he meant was that he had trimmed their beaks.

Now, just to be clear, the word “debeaking” can mislead. It could imply removing the entire beak, which can be deadly.

What he simply did was to remove part of the top and bottom beak of each bird using a special pair of scissors, which is also called beak trimming.

The pair of scissors retails for Sh1,000 in most agrovets and one person is enough to do the task.

As you may recall, sometime last year (Seeds of Gold, August 13, 2016), I recounted a nasty experience on my farm resulting from cannibalism, bullying, feather and vent pecking in the flock.

At that time, about 40 per cent of the flock had been affected. Several hens had severe body injuries and I was losing about three mature birds every week.

For sure, as high as 25 to 30 per cent deaths rates have been reported in flocks affected with this problem.

AVOID ORDINARY PAIR OF SCISSORS

The experts I consulted then were very clear that, “Pecking and other forms of cannibalism are easier to prevent than to treat.”

In addition, they told me that, “To work, prevention of feather-pecking should begin early.” Researchers have recognised that pullets that feather-peck will continue this practice as adults.

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