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Excerpts from: A General Guide to Beak Trimming


This bulletin has been prepared as a guide to beak trimming methods most commonly used today. It is not intended to be authoritative as Poultrymen will generally beak trim according to their particular requirements. Also through the fine Extension Services available, the Poultryman can secure expert help and guidance to his particular need. This bulletin is, therefore, a summary of the methods in use and not a recommendation of any particular procedure.

Why Beak Trim?

There are many advantages to beak trimming birds:

  1. It stops cannibalism, saving lives and annoyance
  2. It stops fighting - the birds is literally disarmed
  3. It stops feather pulling - preserving a good grade of bird
  4. It stops feed wastage - birds can't pick so they receive a balanced diet
  5. It stops egg loss - a major plus for the egg producer
  6. It stops the nuisance problem of toe picking.
  7. Beak trimmed birds tend to be quieter - fear of other birds is eliminated

Why Cauterize?

Cauterization of a wound to stop bleeding is a practice as old as the medical profession itself. With birds there are additional advantages to cauterization. It promotes healing and prevents the possible spread of disease. Stress on the bird is greatly reduced a time when it is important for them to learn to eat and drink.

When & How to Beak Trim

The method and age to beak trim will depend on the use of the bird, broiler, layer, etc., and the convenience and desire of the grower. broilers are generally beak trimmed at day old or at any early age by either the hatchery or producers. The most popular method of beak trimming layers is the precision 6-10 day old method. It must be pointed out, however, that some growers prefer to beak trim once at an early age and again before the birds are placed into production. Since there are so many methods, the producer or grower must in the final analysis select the time and method most suitable to him. To aid you in determining the method to use, we have summarized in this bulletin, the most common and popular methods in use today.


We have included information on only some of these methods. For more details ask us for the full detailed Lyon report.

Day old Beak Trimming of Broiler Chicks

For more details ask us for the full detailed Lyon report.

  • Beak Heat Treating Methods
  • Angle Beak Trimming
  • Notch Beak Trimming

6-10 Day Old Precision Block Beak Trimming of Layers

Widely used and growing in popularity with egg producers, this method required the use of a power unit with the Super Beak Trimmer. Three types of attachments are available for this method.

  • B Block Beak Trimmer Attachment
  • BP Attachment
  • BC Attachment

There are three holes in the attachment gauge to provide for proper cutting of various sizes of beaks. The timed 2+ seconds of cauterization provided by the Precision Power Unit kills the beak roots. Figure 1 at the right shows how the bird will looks when beak trimmed and Figure 2 shows how the beak will looks when the bird reaches maturity. Properly done the beak trimming will suffice for the life of the bird.

Figure 1

Figure 2

3-6 Week Beak Trimming

For more details ask us for the full detailed Lyon report.


Older Bird Beak Trimming

Started birds, layers, and turkeys beak trimmed at an older age are usually beak trimmed using a stand beak support with a K or H blade. Turkey growers seem to prefer the S and H blades as they are both heavier blades than the K.

To beak trim, hold the bird with the left hand and use the right hand to grasp the upper neck near the head. Use the right forefinger to open the bird's mouth and leave the finger over the lower beak and tongue during the beak trimming process. This method makes it easier to slip the upper beak over the beak support. When the bird's beak is in position, hold the head square with the blade and operate the foot pedal or power unit so that the cauterizing blade cuts through the beak at a constant rate. Avoid burning the tongue. Bleeding can occur if beak trimming is done too fast or the blade is not clean. Use only the amount of heat necessary to stop bleeding and keep the beak against the blade a sufficient time to obtain proper cauterization. See Figure at the right.

Do Not move the bird's head from side to side or remove the bird's beak too quickly and then re-cauterize repeatedly. If the bird's head is held at a high angle, it will not rest on the beak support properly.

Remember: Different areas of the beak have different bleeding rates so it is generally preferred to beak trim the bird at the base of the nostrils or a short distance out to reduce bleeding. Even so, some birds are bleeders as are humans, and will belled to some extent.

When only the upper beak is removed, the lower beak will continue to grow and occasionally become quite long. While this is not considered to be a disadvantage if feeders of sufficient depth are used, the lower beak can also be cut off slightly to retard its growth and allow the bird to eat more easily.

Some Poultrymen prefer to cut both beaks if the bird is not too old. For this method, hold the bird in the left hand and grasp the neck near the head with the right hand. With the thumb on the back of the head, use the forefinger on the throat to draw back the lower beak and tongue so the lower beak will be cut less than the upper. See Figure at right. This gives a brief choking action, but it is necessary to withdraw the tongue far enough to avoid its being burned. With the method, approximately 3/4 of the upper beak and 1/4 of the lower beak is removed.



















Beak Trimming Turkeys

For more details ask us for the full detailed Lyon report.


Beak Trimming Game Birds

For more details ask us for the full detailed Lyon report.


Do's and Don'ts of Beak Trimming

  1. Don't beak trim when birds are under any kind of stress
  2. Don't rush when beak trimming. Learn to do the job correctly, speed will follow.
  3. Do keep plenty of feed available after beak trimming
  4. Do keep water available, deep enough so the bird can drink easily
  5. Do keep blade clean and in good condition

By Miller Hatcheries


  • Make sure you pick up your birds as early as possible upon arrival at the Post Office or at one of our Agents
  • Make sure you have proper bedding - at  least 4 to 5 inches deep using good straw [not barley], shavings or a mixture of both. This will help prevent leg problems. Keep litter from becoming damp.
  • Spend some time with your chicks when you get them home. Make sure they are finding the food and water and are comfortable. Remember they are newborns! Left unattended they may drown in the waterers in the first few hours.
  • Use booster in the water for the first 5 days.
  • Make sure you are feeding the proper feed to your birds. Chick starter for chicks, turkey starter for turkey poults. Always use proper amounts of supplement if feeding your own grain.
  • Make sure the area is the right size. If there is too much room the chicks will get away from the food, water and heat. This can cause the birds to become weak and they can die due to stare-outs. Use brooder guard to create confined area.
  • Check the temperature or drafts if your birds are piling up, chirping a lot, or pasting up behind. This is an indication they are too cold.
  • Place a few chicks with your turkeys if brooding them separately - they will get the poults eating and drinking. In 10 days remove the chicks.
  • Beak trim your layers if placing them with other birds.
  • Ask us for free advice when in doubt.


  • Over heat your chicks in transit [do no put in front of a heater]
  • Use cardboard, plain newspaper or any slippery substance on the floor to start chicks or poults. This can cause severe leg problems.
  • Start baby chicks in the same building as older birds. It is very easy to transmit diseases from your old birds to your newly hatched chicks.
  • Cover the chick area with plastic. This will cause dampness and can kill the chicks. Chick need proper ventilation.
  • Overfeed - this is one of the most common reasons for ascites in meat birds.
  • Use white heat lamps or allow bright sunlight into the enclosure. This could cause pecking.
  • Place ducks and geese in with chicks or poults. They tend to create an environment too damp for the chicks
  • Use sawdust or sand for litter
  • Over medicate your birds. Use only recommended medications and follow label instructions.

By Miller Hatcheries

Piling, which can affect all types of poultry, is most commonly caused by too low of a brooding temperature, birds getting excessively wet or by sudden and unexpected movements and noises. Birds that are chilled or frightened tend to huddle on top of each other, smothering the birds underneath. Maintain dry litter, adequate watering equipment and proper temperatures, especially during the night.

  • Learn to knock lightly on the door before entering, open the door and enter the pen slowly.
  • Keep doors locked to prevent predators, pets and even small children from entering and frightening the birds.

Power failures may also cause birds to panic when continuous lighting is given. If possible, give at least 1 hour of darkness per 24 hours.

By Miller Hatcheries

When mixing light and heavy breeds, it is almost a must that the light breeds [Leghorns] be beak trimmed as the heavy breeds are slower feathering and this causes the light breeds to pick on them.

Contrary to popular belief, feather picking is not caused by a lack of any particular type of mineral within their diet; it is purely an environmental problems - such as too much light, too much heat - too crowded or too much room.

It is very important that your birds feel comfortable.

  • It is not recommended to have large window exposed to the south as excessive light is a major factor causing cannibalism within your flock.
  • Never use white lights for lighting during the brooding period.