The good news
There are no longer laying hens in tiny ‘barren’ cages which restrict every aspect of their natural behaviour in the UK.
The bad news
However, millions of birds in are still kept in tiny barren cages in countries outside the EU community where we have no control over welfare. This makes it all the more important to support British farmers. (For more information on how you can make a difference to hen welfare and support British farmers, please look at our latest campaigns page.)
If you buy a processed food product manufactured from outside the EU you could inadvertently be eating eggs laid by battery caged hens kept in tiny cages. Always read food labels and purchase products which contain free range eggs, British where possible.
British hens and British farmers
British farmers invested heavily to ensure they were compliant with the new Laying Hens Directive that came into force in 2012. This EU-wide Directive banned the use of barren battery cages and introduced the enriched or colony cage which is designed to hold up to 90 birds and give the hens more freedoms. These include:
- Potential to nest – one end of the enriched cage has a small nesting area
- Potential to roost – perches 3-4” high run along part of the cage
- Potential to scratch – a small scratch area is provided with friable matter
- Potential to stretch – the height and width of the cage allows for more freedom of movement
The enriched cage offers an improved environment over the barren battery cage, allowing them to perform the natural behaviours outlined above.
Ultimately, we would like all laying hens to be given access outdoors and be kept in small free range flocks with good enrichment on the range, such as woodland or other shelter together with a stimulating environment. By educating consumers about how they can support hen welfare, we also indirectly encourage farmers to invest in this type of small scale, free range system.
However, where there is a continuing demand for caged eggs, we would far rather they are produced in the UK than imported from countries where we may not have control over welfare. Help us to help farmers produce the eggs we want to eat. Buy British Free Range Eggs.