2015 - 2017

Does infrared beak treatment Impact young pullets – behaviour, water consumption, and ability to peck?

Principal Investigator: Karen Schwean-Lardner, University of Saskatchewan
Co-investigator: Hank Classen, University of Saskatchewan; Trever Crowe, University of Saskatchewan
Status: Completed


To identity if infrared beak treatment impacts young pullets behaviour, water consumption and ability to peck.


Beak treatment remains one of the most effective means to controlling cannibalism within the poultry industry.  However, despite evidence that infrared beak (IR) treatment is less detrimental to the welfare of egg production birds than other traditional forms of beak trimming, societal concerns still exist for any form of beak manipulation. Research programs have included periodic or short term behavioural assessments of treated pullets, but few have performed detailed analysis comparing pullet behaviour of infrared treated versus untreated (control) chicks. Understanding the behaviour of these pullets is important, and may provide leads to assessing if properly performed (using specific beak treatment settings) beak treatment results in changes to behavioural patterns including behaviours such as; feeding frequency and duration, mobility, comfort behaviours, and various types of stereotypical and feather pecking. Additionally, IR treated pullets may have difficulty in drinking from commonly used nipple drinker systems, however this has not been scientifically addressed. If this does occur, then the incidence of starve outs or dehydrated chicks, feed intake, and growth rate could be negatively affected, with the possibility of this impacting bird adult size and ultimately egg size.  Understanding if this is really an issue is important, and could lead to better management conditions to correct the issue if it does exist. Finally, it is of interest to understand if during the time of beak sloughing the chick experiences pain. The majority of available literature has confirmed this with behavioural monitoring, although this is not conclusive.  Therefore employing other techniques (such as measuring the force of pecking), to determine if there is pain during the sloughing phase that limits the force a chick can peck with, could help further assist in defining this concern. It is vital that we understand the impact that management practices have on birds.  This study will address the three issues outlined above to provide valuable and detailed information on the impact that IR treatment does or does not have on the behaviour of egg production pullets, and may lead to improvements in management practices involved in the rearing of these pullets to improve welfare and productivity of the birds.


$176,407 ($38,375 CPRC, $88,032 NSERC, $25,000 Saskatchewan Egg Producers, $25,000 Nova-tech)

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