Debeaking Chickens


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Debeaking Chickens
By Karen Davis - 10 Jul 2007

Dear Heather,

Regarding your question about debeaking your chickens, please do not even consider doing that to your birds. Debeaking is a painful mutilation of a body organ that is filled to the tip with extremely sensitive nerve endings that affect not only the beak but also the innervated face of the bird from the time s/he is an embryo. Chickens need intact beaks to preen and eat properly. For information, please visit:

If your chickens are picking on each other, there may be a problem in how they are being kept. Do they have access to a yard with plenty of green forage and soil to scratch in? Chickens are foragers. The need space and things within that space to satisfy their interests and needs. For more information, please visit

I also urge you to have a good veterinarian. A wound can become infected, leading to blood poisoning and death, without proper treatment. You should at the very least clean out the wound you describe, and apply an antibacterial agent such as Betadine, Nolvesan, and/or Neosporin - until the wound heals. Also, you should worm your chickens with Ivermectin. Please see our Chicken Care section at the above link.

I hope things work out for you and your birds, but please do not debeak. Chickens evolved in nature to live in successfully in social groups and chickens with proper nutrition and environment rarely pick at each other.

Chickens with a nutritional deficiency they can't satisfy by foraging may be driven to pick on each other, and chickens who are kept in a place that is dirty, with piled up droppings, mites, lice etc. will pick at each other and display aberrant behavior reflecting the poor environment. Boredom can lead to their picking at each other.

This is not to suggest that your chicken environment is at fault but to clarify the importance of cleanliness, space, and appropriate environmental stimuli in maintaining good social behavior in the flock. In addition to feedgrains, chickens should receive fresh greens such as kale, heads of green leaf lettuce, whole green cabbages & tomatoes for good nutrition and to help occupy their time. They also like melons, tofu, & cooked spaghetti with sauce as occasional treats.

Best wishes,

Karen Davis, PhD, President
United Poultry Concerns
12325 Seaside Road, PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405