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What is the RSPCA's position on battery cages for layer hens?

Article ID: 103
Last updated: 12 Nov, 2014
Revision: 6
Views: 20195

The RSPCA aims to make people aware that all animals used by humans must be treated humanely and compassionately. For many years, the RSPCA has been actively campaigning against battery cages in egg production.

The RSPCA established an Approved Farming Scheme for layer hens where producers can use the RSPCA logo on egg cartons only if they meet very high welfare standards — this means eggs from hens housed in battery cages are excluded. The Approved Farming Scheme for layer hens is a win–win situation: the public can buy welfare-friendly eggs and producers can see it makes economic sense to improve the welfare of their hens.

Following are just some of the reasons why the RSPCA will continue to lobby governments to ban the use of battery cages:

  • Cage eggs come from 3–5 hens housed in a small wire cage; there are many thousands of cages stacked in sheds containing up to 100 000 birds.
  • The space allocation for each bird is less than the size of a piece of A4 paper and cages are only 40 cm high.
  • Small cages mean hens are unable to stretch out, flap their wings or exercise properly.
  • Scientific studies indicate that battery hens suffer intensely and continuously all the time they are confined in cages. Restricted movement, constant exposure to a wire floor and lack of perches lead to serious bone and muscle weakness.
  • Hens cannot express normal behaviours such as wing flapping, scratching, dust bathing, perching and foraging.
  • Caged hens cannot have a normal ‘personal space’ so they cannot escape aggression from other hens.
  • Cages have no nesting area — nesting before and during egg laying is a priority for hens and this deficiency really frustrates them.

The egg industry argues that the high laying rates in battery cages indicate healthy, productive hens. However, the overwhelming consensus among animal welfare experts is that the welfare of hens is severely compromised. A detailed European report makes a clear case against battery cages: http://www.laywel.eu/.

Conventional cages do not allow hens to fulfil behaviour priorities, preferences and needs for nesting, perching, foraging and dust bathing in particular. We believe these disadvantages outweigh the advantages of reduced parasitism, good hygiene and simpler management. The advantages can be matched by other systems that also enable a much fuller expression of normal behaviour.

Eggs labelled with the RSPCA logo are produced according to strict standards — much stricter than required by law. They state hens must be housed so they have access to a nest to lay their eggs in, litter to dust bathe in, sufficient space to move around freely, flap their wings, stretch, socialise and escape aggression. Hens must have constant access to good food and water and must be protected from predators and the elements.

To make sure these high welfare standards are being met, RSPCA Approved farms are inspected every 6 months by an experienced RSPCA assessor. View our layer hen standards here.

The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry (http://www.publish.csiro.au/books/download.cfm?ID=3451) sets minimum welfare guidelines for people involved in the care and management of domestic poultry.

To learn more about the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme visit our website.


This website provides general information which must not be relied upon or regarded as a substitute for specific professional advice, including veterinary advice. We make no warranties that the website is accurate or suitable for a person's unique circumstances and provide the website on the basis that all persons accessing the website responsibly assess the relevance and accuracy of its content.
Also read
document Can the RSPCA prosecute farmers for keeping animals in intensive systems?
document What is the difference between free range, bred free range, organic, sow-stall free?
document How can I shop for animal-welfare friendly food?
document What is the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme?
document What are the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme standards for layer hens?
document Where can I buy RSPCA Approved chicken, eggs, pork and turkey?
document RSPCA Policy B2 Intensive farming practices
document What are the animal welfare issues with duck farming in Australia?
document Can the behavioural needs of a layer hen be met in a (furnished) cage?
document How could egg producers manage the change from cage systems to non-cage systems?
document How much space does a free-range layer hen need?
document How can free-range layer hens be encouraged to use the range area?
document Can layer hen mortality, pests, parasites, disease and predation be managed in non-cage systems?
document Do layer hens suffer from bone problems?
document How can feather pecking be managed in non-cage layer hen systems?
document Are stress levels of caged layer hens the same as those of hens in non-cage egg production systems?
document What is the RSPCA doing to get hens out of cages?
document What is beak trimming?
document Can layer hen mortality, pests, parasites, disease and predation be managed in non-cage systems?

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