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Beak trimming is used to improve welfare in laying hen flocks. Feather pecking, also called injurious pecking, is something that can occur in flocks, which affects the health of a flock and can also cause injury or death. One solution used by farmers is to blunt beaks by trimming them. This procedure is carried out on chicks within 10 days of hatching.

The procedure itself has welfare implications and in response Defra legislated to ban beak trimming by 1 January 2011. However, on advice from the Farm Animal Welfare Council it was decided in November 2010 to postpone a total ban until at least 2016. Further information on this, including the legislation, can be found in the Library Standard Note on Battery Hens (SNSC 1367).

The Government decided a total ban would not be introduced until it could be demonstrated under commercial conditions that laying hens could be managed without beak trimming, without a greater risk to their welfare than that caused by beak trimming. The decision on whether to implement the ban will be made following a review of evidence in 2015 of whether welfare of non-trimmed flocks can be maintained at current or improved levels. Defra is currently funding a study to inform this decision, which will be completed by 2015.

There is an ongoing campaign by the NFU and poultry farmers to have the proposed ban for 2016 postponed.

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