Through the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme the RSPCA works closely with farmers committed to producing higher welfare cage-free eggs. Since releasing our first animal welfare standards for layer hens in 1996, more than 1.4 million hens have benefitted from better conditions on farm.
Hens on RSPCA Approved farms have nests, perches, litter to dust bathe and enough space to move. Whether raised indoors or with access to the outdoors, there’s a focus on providing for layer hens’ behavioural and physical needs. Battery cages are not allowed under the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme.
Some of the specific requirements of the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme Standard for Layer Hens include:
- 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.