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What is the RSPCA's position on battery cages?

Article ID: 103
Last updated: 27 Sep, 2016
Revision: 9
Views: 21003

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

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

  • Battery cages are small, barren wire cages; there are many thousands of cages stacked in sheds containing up to 100,000 birds.
  • The space given to each bird is less than the size of a piece of A4 paper and cages are only 40 cm high.
  • Hens are unable to stretch their wings, flap their wings, or exercise in battery cages.
  • Scientific studies indicate that battery hens suffer in battery cages. Restricted movement, constantly standing on a wire floor, and a lack of perches lead to severe bone and muscle weakness.
  • Hens cannot express normal behaviours which they are highly motivated to perform, such as wing flapping, scratching the ground, dust bathing, perching, nesting, and foraging.
  • Caged hens do not have ‘personal space’ so they cannot escape aggression from other hens.
  • Battery cages have no nesting area — nesting before and during egg laying is a priority for hens and this deficiency frustrates and distresses them.

The overwhelming consensus among animal welfare experts is that the welfare of hens in battery cages is severely compromised. A detailed scientific European report makes a clear case against battery cages.

Battery cages do not allow hens to fulfil behavioural priorities, preferences and needs for nesting, perching, foraging and dust bathing in particular. 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.

The RSPCA established an Approved Farming Scheme for layer hens where producers can use the RSPCA logo on egg cartons only if they meet 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.

Eggs labelled with the RSPCA logo are produced according to strict standards — much stricter than required by law. The RSPCA standards state that hens must be housed so they have access to perches, a nest in which to lay their eggs, litter in which to dust bathe and forage, environmental enrichment, 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 assessed at least every 6 months by an experienced RSPCA assessor. View our layer hen standards here.

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 needs of layer hens be met in furnished cages?
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 Do layer hens suffer from bone problems?
document Are stress levels of hens in battery cages the same as those of hens in cage-free egg production systems?
document What is the RSPCA doing to get hens out of battery cages?
document What is beak trimming?
document Can layer hen mortality, pests, parasites, disease and predation be managed in non-cage systems?
document Why is it important for layer hens to express normal behaviours?

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