The supplier of my hens advertises on his website that his chickens are not debeaked. Or, if so, (because Isa Brown factories routinely debeak) just a minor clip of the pointy bit on the top beak. Uh huh.
Never being around chickens before I didn’t really have a clue what their beaks looked like. When I got my girls home, however, I spent some time watching them and it became obvious that a) they had been debeaked and b) it does affect their ability to feed – especially free range.
I have spent a lot of time on the internet trying to learn about debeaking and the consequences on my hens and it looks like some chickens have it worse than mine and mine are sporting rather standard results of debeaking.
Check out the close-ups below.
That’s Bronwyn. She has the most dramatic loss of beak. This underbite makes it pretty tough for her to pick up leaves or grains from the ground (or spread thinly in a bowl). But she appears to have mastered the sideways grab.
And last but not least, Rosie. She’s a bit fuzzy but she does jerk around more than the others so this photo is a true representation of her personality. She has a pronounced underbite and a permanent airspace between beaks.
I don’t think the beaks will grow back (apparently sometimes they do) and I don’t think my hens are suffering chronic pain (sometimes they do) and they are eating well (sometimes they don’t) but dammit – this totally sucks. For their sakes not mine.
No, I wouldn’t give them back even if the guy who sold them to me would take them. I figure I’m earning brownie points in heaven by saving my girls from a life in an overcrowded pen where their beaks are seen as threats.
What I’ve read has warned me they may not be great at foraging (the whole leaves I’ve given them prove to me that this will be the case – they can’t rip and cut through foliage) and kitchen scraps can be problematic (I’ll be cutting things up more than I had intended). I did worry that maybe they weren’t able to eat enough from their feeder but I think they’re doing fine in that department. I put a deep box of food in their coop this morning and they went at it like maniacs, they clearly prefer a wide open space to having to twist their head at the feeder, but I don’t think they’re going hungry.
All of which means my chickens went through something traumatic that probably hurt like crazy and has affected them for the rest of their lives but chickens are clearly resilient and adaptable little creatures and they are happy and healthy which is what matters.