6. Importance

This post includes the following sections:
beak trimming
Further reading (by language)


Mortality due to injurious pecking in furnished cages can be lower, on average, than in non-cage systems. Figures from the UK indicate that it is around 5.0 – 8.7% (or 65% of total mortality). In non-cage systems there is much more variation and the total mortality can increase up to 20-30%, of which 6-26% can be due to cannibalism, although the average figure is much lower.

Beak trimming

Beak trimming is used to prevent the very worst effects of injurious pecking (i.e. cannibalism) but it does not tackle the underlying causes of injurious pecking, nor does it fully eliminate the risk of feather pecking. Beak trimming is a mutilation, amputating the sensitive tip of the beak of the birds. Beak trimming therefore is painful to the birds, even if it is done at young age with an Infra Red beam. Ideally, from the point of view of animal welfare, the environment and management should be arranged to ensure and safeguard bird welfare. In fact, mutilations adapt birds to a suboptimal environment, which is not the preferred way to keep animals.
According to Council Regulation 834/2007 beak trimming is not allowed for organic production in Europe. Some countries have banned beak trimming for all production systems.


Injurious pecking is a serious problem both in commercial flocks with intact beaks and in those with trimmed beaks. In Switzerland about 1/3 of the farmers take measures to prevent feather pecking. In the UK, 47% of the farmers indicated that feather pecking is a normal occurrence, despite beak treatments. Researchers found that at least 65% of the flocks in the laying period have signs of severe feather pecking, despite beak treatments. This inevitably leads to a reduction in feather cover and increases (up to 40% or more) in feed intake. Increased feed costs and mortality result in serious economic losses due to feather pecking.

Further reading





FeatherWel - improving feather cover AssureWel - improving feather cover
FeatherWel management guide [pdf, 5.49mb] AssureWel advice guide [pdf, 661kb]


Treatment of feather pecking (in Dutch) Prevention of feather pecking (in Dutch)
Noodmaatregelen tegen pikkerij [Treatment of FP]. Van Niekerk et al. 2013 (Report, 32 pp). Van kuiken tot kip [Prevention of FP]. Van Niekerk et al.2011 (Report, 32 pp).
  • Literatuurstudie ingrepen bij pluimvee [Literature study mutilations poultry]. Fiks, T.G.C.M. ; Jong, I.C. de; Veldkamp, T. ; Emous, R.A. van; Middelkoop, J.H. van. Animal Sciences Group / Wageningen UR, 2006 (PraktijkRapport Pluimvee 19) – p. 92


Feather pecking key (in Danish)
Fjerpilningsnøgle [Feather pecking key]. Johansen, N.F. 2013 (Report, 48 pp).

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