There is pressure to ban the practice of using beak treatment in laying hens and with this comes the need to find viable alternatives. Natural beak blunting by the inclusion of abrasive materials in the feeder has been suggested as an alternative, but its applicability to leghorn pullets and laying hens is not fully understood. This study investigated if a specialized feeding system that has been shown to blunt broiler breeder beaks could effectively replace infrared beak treatment in Lohmann Brown-Lite and Lohmann LSL-Lite pullets and hens. Birds were sorted into 3 treatments: untreated control (C), infrared beak treated (IR), or provided with a specialized beak blunting feeder (SF), which had an abrasive inner feed pan. The SF beaks were not shortened nor blunted when compared to C beaks from 0 to 16 wk. The feather cover of SF hens at 36 wk was poorer overall, suggesting that the SF beaks were as effective at pulling and removing feathers as the C hens. Cannibalism-related mortality was highest for the SF hens from 17 to 36 wk, further supporting the lack of effectiveness of the SF system. Similar to previous research, infrared beak treatment was effective in controlling cannibalism in laying hens. No decline in body weight, or increases in stress level suggested any negative impact of the IR treatment in this study. Overall, the specialized feeders did not negatively impact productivity or welfare, but were not effective at blunting the beak, resulting in poor feather cover and increased cannibalism.
- beak length
- natural beak smoothing