Laying Hens (England): Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock (PB7274)


Schedule 3D, paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2002 (S.I. 2002 No.1646) laying down conditions applicable to laying hens in all systems states that:

Subject to paragraph 9 (below), no person shall mutilate any laying hen. In order to prevent feather pecking and cannibalism, until 31 December 2010, beak trimming of birds is permitted in all systems set out in Schedules 3A, 3B and 3C provided it is carried out

(a) by persons over 18 years of age

(b) on chickens that are less than 10 days old and intended for laying; and

(c) in accordance with the Veterinary Surgery (Exemptions) Order 1962 (SI 1962/2557).


The Welfare of Livestock (Prohibited Operations) Regulations 1982 (S.I. 1982 No. 1884) prohibits any operation on a bird with the object or effect of impeding its flight (other than feather clipping) or the fitting of any appliance which has the object or effect of limiting vision to a bird by a method involving the penetration or other mutilation of the nasal septum.


When not carried out by a veterinary surgeon beak-trimming must be carried out in accordance with the Veterinary Surgery (Exemptions) Order 1962 (S.I. 1962 No. 2557) i.e.: removal from a bird by means of a suitable instrument of :-

(i) not more than a one-third part of both its upper and lower beaks, measured from the tip towards the entrance of the nostrils, if carried out as a single operation; or
(ii) not more than a one-third part of its upper beak only, measured in the same way; and the arrest of any subsequent haemorrhage from the beak by cauterisation.

Nothing in the foregoing provisions shall authorise the performance of any minor treatment, test or operation by a person under the age of 18.



Where beak trimming is carried out it should, wherever possible, be restricted to beak tipping; that is, the blunting of the beak to remove the sharp point which can be the cause of the most severe damage to other birds.


Beak trimming should be carried out to the highest possible standards by trained operators. Operators should continually be re-evaluated for efficiency of their beak trimming skills.


If behavioural problems occur, which manifest themselves in injurious feather pecking, they should be tackled immediately by appropriate changes in the system of management; for example, by reduction of the lighting intensity. Research also indicates that availability of good quality litter, particularly shavings, encourages foraging and   dustbathing and hence reduces the feather-pecking tendency.

ADLib logo Content provided by the Agricultural Document Library
© University of Hertfordshire, 2011