←Go back to RSPCA

RSPCA Australia knowledgebase

RSPCA Australia Knowledgebase

Search:     Advanced search

What is the RSPCA's position on battery cages?

Article ID: 103
Last updated: 24 Nov, 2017
Revision: 13
print  Print
share  Share
Views: 30151

For many years, the RSPCA has been actively campaigning against battery cages. Battery cages are completely barren – hens in battery cages experience extreme confinement and behavioural restriction, without enough space to even stretch their wings. Due to the inability to walk, flap their wings, or perch, hens in battery cages suffer very poor muscle and bone strength, a high rate of bone fractures, frustration, abnormal behaviours, and poor welfare. The ability to perform natural behaviours is important to positive welfare in poultry.

Many scientific studies have concluded that good welfare cannot be achieved in battery cages. The overwhelming consensus among animal welfare experts is that the welfare of hens in battery cages is severely compromised. The whole of the European Union and the United Kingdom have legally phased out battery cages, and Canada and New Zealand are currently phasing them out. These decisions were based on comprehensive scientific reviews. A detailed scientific European report makes a clear case against 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 that may contain 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 do not have enough space to stretch or flap their wings, or exercise.
  • 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.

In Australia, more and more people have been buying cage-free eggs at the supermarket over the past 5 years. Despite this, more than 11 million layer hens, or around two-thirds of all layer hens in Australia, are still confined to battery cages. With the current review of the minimum standards for poultry, now is the first real opportunity in approximately 15 years to legislate a phase out of battery cages.

Now is the time for the egg industry and legislators to initiate a phase-out of battery cages on achievable terms.

Find out more about the science of battery cages and alternative systems by reading RSPCA’s scientific report here, and lend your voice to the RSPCA’s campaign against battery cages here.

This article was:  


Also read
folder Can the RSPCA prosecute farmers for keeping animals in intensive systems?
folder What is the difference between free range, bred free range, organic, sow-stall free?
folder How can I shop for animal-welfare friendly food?
folder What is the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme?
folder What are the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme standards for layer hens?
folder Where can I buy RSPCA Approved chicken, eggs, pork and turkey?
folder What are the animal welfare issues with duck farming in Australia?
folder Can the needs of layer hens be met in furnished cages?
folder How could egg producers manage the change from battery cage systems to alternative systems?
folder How much space does a free-range layer hen need?
folder How can free-range layer hens be encouraged to use the range area?
folder Do layer hens suffer from bone problems?
folder How can feather pecking be managed in cage-free layer hen systems?
folder Are stress levels of hens in battery cages the same as those of hens in cage-free egg production systems?
folder What is the RSPCA doing to get hens out of battery cages?
folder What is beak trimming?
folder Can layer hen mortality, pests, parasites, disease and predation be managed in non-cage systems?
folder Why is it important for layer hens to express normal behaviours?

Also listed in
folder Farm animals -> Animal management

Prev     Next
What is the RSPCA doing to get hens out of battery cages?       What type of house should I build for my backyard hens?