Infra-red beak treatment involves the removal of the sharp tip from the beak of laying hens. Day old chicks are treated with an infra-red beam as part of a quick process, over in moments, after which the chicks revert to their natural behaviour. The tip of the beak then falls off around 10 days later, thereby thwarting the bird’s ability to deliver harmful pecks at other birds.
Within the commercial world, birds need to be kept in flocks of up to 16,000, and it is in these large flocks that behaviours change and can become damaging.
Birds have their beaks trimmed for one reason, and that is to prevent them from causing harm to one another; if beaks are left untrimmed there is an increased danger that feather pecking will become habitual within a large flock, which in turn can quickly lead to what is known as ‘injurious pecking’, and in a worst case scenario, multiple deaths can be caused through injury.
Feather pecking can start for a variety of reasons – it can be a feed deficiency, boredom, or it can be no particular reason at all. It takes one hen to peck one feather which draws blood, and that can attract the attention of other hens; all hens are drawn to red. Once a pattern of behaviour is established within a flock, it is very difficult to contain.