The farmer commented: “They are like kids with a toy box. A particular ‘toy’ will fall out
of favour and the birds will show disinterest, but then a few months later, re-introduction
of the same activity will initiate renewed fascination.”
The farmer has undertaken these two flocks at his own risk, with no insurance cover if it
goes wrong. If the ‘entire’ birds develop injurious pecking, he could sustain substantial
financial loss, but he was determined to see for himself the pros and cons of beak
trimming.
More farmers are being invited to put forward flocks for research, but with the potential
to put their flocks in danger, research has naturally been slow. However, the British Egg
Industry Council has now come up with some funding, and research is focusing on how
best to manipulate the birds’ behaviour to avoid injurious pecking. As well as ‘range
enrichment’ (trees and bushes and areas of interest to hens), genetic research is being
carried out to try to produce a more docile bird so that she loses that natural aggression
when kept in a large flock.
So what are the varying views on debeaking? The egg industry wants to further
delay the ban on beak trimming until there is confidence that welfare will not be
compromised Many vets are calling for a delay too. However, the RSPCA has expressed
disappointment that the industry has not yet eradicated the serious problems that can
occur from injurious pecking, and other groups intend stepping up the campaign to urge
the Government to end this practice in 2016.
Continued over ...