Dubbing is a procedure used by poultry farmers to remove the comb from the head of the bird in an attempt to limit later damage by injury, freezing or cannibalism. Dubbing is also performed on birds for breed shows and cockfighting, but the practice is controversial and has been outlawed in some countries.
The comb is an anatomical feature of many birds, including chickens, turkeys and pheasants. It is a fleshy outgrowth on the top of the head, connected to the beak, and it ranges in colour from grey to bright red to deep blue. The comb is generally larger in male birds than females. Its shape often differs according to breed and can be used to identify the type of bird.
Purpose of the Comb
The comb serves two primary purposes. The first is thermostasis. Thermostasis is the ability of a living organism to maintain the same temperature, regardless of changes in the environment. Birds with combs can route blood flow through the comb, allowing heat to dissipate more quickly. The second purpose of the comb is to serve as an indicator of health. A healthy bird will have a bright, pliable and shapely comb. A sick bird may show a dirty, flaccid or otherwise unsatisfactory comb.
Similar to the comb is the wattle. It drapes from the beak down and is the same colour and texture as the comb. The procedure to remove a wattle is called dewattling.
When to Perform a Dub
Dubbing is performed on day-old chicks, as the comb has fewer nerve endings and a smaller blood supply at this time. The procedure can be performed as late as the second or third day after hatching, but it's not recommended. "Dubbing Poultry: Why and How to Do It" states the procedure is straightforward and does not need to be performed by a veterinarian unless the dubbing is done to a show bird.
How to Perform a Dub
To perform the dub, the comb is first disinfected and, if available, an anesthetic is applied to limit pain. Sterile scissors cut the comb off, and a styptic, an astringent chemical that promotes blood clotting, is applied. The wound can be left uncovered and checked on daily until it has healed. Dewattling would take place at the same time.
Reasons to Dub
Birds kept in an environment in which the temperature falls below freezing can suffer frostbite on the comb or wattle. This creates an environment for gangrene or other serious infections, which can lead to the death of the bird. It is also a target for attack by other birds, especially chickens, when they establish the flock's pecking order. Birds bred for fighting are often dubbed to prevent injury to the comb.
Dubbing involves pain for the bird and removes a normal part of its anatomy. In circumstances in which dubbing is not necessary, it is considered cruel. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has taken a stance against cosmetic dubbing of show birds. Cockfighting or bird fighting is illegal in all 50 states, Great Britain and most of Europe due to concerns over animal cruelty, so there is no legitimate reason to dub a bird for fighting. Dubbing of domesticated birds to prevent frostbite and other injuries is still legal.
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