Beak trimming is a procedure that is used to avoid injuries from birds pecking each other, sometimes to death (cannibalism). Beak trimming is sometimes referred to as “debeaking”; however, at no time is the entire beak removed. In any housing system for turkeys, either indoor or outdoor, there is a risk of a cannibalism outbreak. These outbreaks can involve a large number of birds in the flock and can be very difficult to control. Feather pecking and cannibalism are more common in large flocks, such as in commercial production, but can also occur in small backyard flocks. They occur regardless of the space available to the birds and are related to a number of factors, including breed, flock management (possibly involving lighting levels) and the bird’s experience at rearing. Feather pecking and cannibalism, once established in a flock, are very difficult to control. Hence there is the need to weigh up the welfare consequences of allowing the feather pecking to continue or to try and prevent/control it by beak trimming.
The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme standards for turkeys only allow a once-off beak trim at the hatchery, by a competent operator using an infrared beam, and is limited to removal of the tip of the beak. To learn more about the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme visit our website. The RSPCA’s preferred option is the implementation of all management strategies that may reduce the risk of feather-pecking, and the selection of birds less prone to feather pecking.