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  5. What are the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme standards for layer hens?

What are the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme standards for layer hens?

The RSPCA developed standards for egg producers that ensure a high level of welfare for layer hens. Egg producers can apply to participate in the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme and this will be granted if the farming system meets the RSPCA’s standards. Egg cartons containing RSPCA-Approved eggs are labelled with the RSPCA Approved Farming logo so that consumers can be assured that the hens are kept according to the RSPCA’s high animal welfare standards.

The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme is not-for-profit. Royalty payments received from companies marketing their products as RSPCA Approved are used to fund the Scheme.

The RSPCA Approves both barn and free-range housing systems. These types of systems, unlike battery cages, give hens the opportunity to express their full range of behaviours.

Some of the requirements in the RSPCA standards for layer hens are:

  • Battery cages are not allowed.
  • The hens must have:
    • clean, dry litter to use for dust bathing and foraging
    • space to flap their wings, fly, stretch, socialise and avoid aggressive birds
    • nests for egg laying
    • adequate perch space
    • environmental enrichment to enhance the environment and provide them with objects to peck
    • constant access to water and nutritious food
    • protection from predators and the elements
    • clean air, free from high levels of ammonia and with minimal dust levels
    • appropriate lighting levels.
  • A maximum stocking density (that is, a maximum number of birds per square metre of floor space) is set to avoid overcrowding.
  • Beak trimming is allowed if it is necessary to avoid feather pecking or cannibalism in the flock, but it must be carried out under specified conditions.
  • Stock workers must be well-trained and alert to problems.
  • Careful records must be kept of management conditions and any health problems, and these records must be made available to the RSPCA.
  • Farms must allow regular inspections (at least every 6 months) by RSPCA farm assessors to ensure that the standards are being adhered to.

To learn more about the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme or to download the standards visit our website.

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Updated on May 1, 2019
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