Higher Welfare Alternatives
Cage-free egg production includes barn, free-range and organic systems. In the UK, free-range systems are the most popular of the non-cage alternatives, accounting for around 50% of all eggs produced, compared to 4% in barns and 3% organic.
Free-range and organic systems
Organic Laying Hens
Systems like this allow the hens access to daylight and fresh air.
They can perform their natural behaviours such as walking, running, roosting, dust-bathing and foraging for seeds and insects.
In free-range systems, hens are housed to a similar standard as the barn or aviary. In addition, they have constant daytime access to an outside range with vegetation. In the EU each hen must have at least 4 square metres of space in non-rotational systems.
Organic systems also provide free-range access and beak trimming is usually not permitted. According to Soil Association regulations, each hen is allowed a minimum of 10 square metres of space outside. EU organic regulations limit stocking density inside the shed to 6 birds per square metre.
Barns and Aviaries
The sheds also provide nest boxes and litter on the floor.
The hens are kept in sheds using the floor space only (barn), or have several tiers of platforms or perches (aviaries). In Europe, stocking density is limited to 9 hens per square metre.
The advantage of this system is that it allows the hens much greater freedom of movement. They can stretch, flap their wings and fly. They can also perform other natural behaviours such as pecking, scratching and laying their eggs in a nest.
Find out how you can help improve the welfare of egg laying hens.