Laying Hens (England): Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock (PB7274)

Housing


General

Schedule 1, paragraphs 11 and 12 of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2000 (S.I. 2000 No. 1870), state that:

- Materials used for the construct ion of accommodation, and, in particular for the construction of pens, cages, stalls and equipment with which the animals may come into contact, shall not be harmful to them and shall be capable of being thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

- Accommodation and fittings for securing animals shall be constructed and maintained so that there are no sharp edges or protrusions likely to cause injury to them.

 

Schedule 3D, paragraph 5 of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2002 (S.I. 2002 No.1646) states that:

Cages must be suitably equipped to prevent hens escaping.

 

Schedule 3D, paragraph 7 of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2002 (S.I. 2002 No.1646) states that:

The design and dimensions of the cage door must be such that an adult hen can be removed without undergoing unnecessary suffering or sustaining injury.

 

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The design, construction and maintenance of enclosures, buildings and equipment for laying birds should be such that they:

- allow the fulfilment of essential biological needs and the maintenance of good health;

- facilitate good management of the birds;

- allow for easy maintenance of good conditions of hygiene and air quality;

- provide shelter from adverse weather conditions;

- limit the risk of disease, disorders manifested by behavioural changes, traumatic injuries to the birds, injuries caused by birds to each other and, as far as possible, contamination of the birds by droppings;

- exclude predators, rodents, and wild animals and minimise insects;

- allow for the prevention and treatment of infestations of internal and external parasites;

- incorporate damp- proof membranes to prevent insulation breakdown, and measures to prevent easy access by vermin to the insulation material.

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Emergency planning: Farmers should make advance plans for dealing with emergencies such as fire, flood or disruption of supplies, and should ensure that all staff are familiar with the appropriate emergency action. At least one responsible  member of the staff should always be on call to take the necessary steps. Fire precautions should be a major priority for all flock-keepers. Where buildings need to be locked, arrangements shall be made to allow rapid entry in case of emergency.

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Flock-keepers should have access to and be familiar with the content of the DEFRA booklet Farm Fires.

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Where birds are housed, floors, perches and platforms should be of a suitable design and material and not cause discomfort, distress or injury to the birds. They must provide sufficient support, particularly for the forward facing claws of each foot; moreover, perches should be of sufficient length to allow all birds to roost at the same time. Floors, perches and platforms should be kept sufficiently dry and clean.

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Birds shall be kept in such a way that they can keep themselves clean.

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Ventilation, heating, lighting, feeding, watering and all other equipment should be designed, sited and installed so as to avoid risk of injuring birds.

Non-cage systems

The details given below apply to all newly built or rebuilt non-cage systems of production for keeping laying hens and all such systems of production brought into use for the first time. From 1 January 2007, these requirements apply to all non-cage systems of production for keeping laying hens.

Schedule 3A, paragraphs 3 (c) (d), and (e), 4 and 5 (a), provisions applicable to laying hens kept in non-cage systems, of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2002 (S.I. 2002 No.1646) state that:

All systems must be equipped in such a way that all laying hens have:

- at least one nest for every seven hens. If group nests are used, there must be at least 1m2 of nest space for a maximum of 120 hens;

- perches, without sharp edges and providing at least 15 cm per hen. Perches must not be mounted above the litter and the horizontal distance between perches must be at least 30 cm and the horizontal distance between the perch and the wall must be at least 20 cm; and

- at least 250 cm2 of littered area per hen, the litter occupying at least one third of the ground surface.

The floors of installations must be constructed so as to support each of the forward-facing claws of each birds foot.

If systems are used where the laying hens can move freely between different levels -

- there shall be no more than four levels;

- the headroom between the levels must be at least 45 cm;

- the drinking and feeding facilities must be distributed in such a way as to provide equal access for all hens; and

-the levels must be so arranged as to prevent droppings falling on the levels below.

 

You should also refer to the Egg Marketing Standards (see reference section) regarding free range and barn eggs.

 

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Usable area may be made up of the ground surface of the building where accessible to the hens and any additional raised areas or platforms at least 30cm wide, including perforated floors providing arrangements are in place to prevent fouling of hens below.

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Nests should be provided with a floor substrate which encourages nesting behaviour. This is especially important at the start of lay, when the provision of loose litter may be used to encourage the pullets to use the nests. Individual nests should be designed to accommodate only one bird at a time. Communal nests should be designed using divisions and suitable access points to minimise overcrowding.

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Nest floors may be made of wire mesh provided that this is overlain by another material such as straw or plastic.

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Only perches at 30cm centres or more apart should be calculated as part of the perching space, although more perches may be provided adjacent to one another to make a perforated floor. Perforated floors can be considered as perching space when they have perches incorporated within the floor structure or attached on top of the floor surface.

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There should be a sufficient gap on either side of any perch to allow the hens to grip the perches without risk of trapping their claws. If foot condition is poor then the provision of perches should be reviewed.

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Multi-tier systems with perforated platforms should have droppings belts or trays beneath. Perches must be positioned to minimise fouling of any hens perched below and droppings falling in drinking and feeding facilities. Where possible, perches should be over a droppings pit.

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Even where ladders are provided, nests, roosting areas, perches and platforms should not be so high above floor level that birds have difficulty in using them or risk injury.

Conventional cages

The details given below apply to all conventional (unenriched) cage systems from 1 January 2003. From 1 January 2003, no person shall build or bring into service for the first time any such cage system for the keeping of laying hens. from 1 January 2012, no person shall keep any laying hen in any such cage system.

Schedule 3B, paragraph 1, provisions applicable to conventional (unenriched) cages, of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2002 (S.I. 2002 No.1646) states that, on and after 1 January 2003 all conventional (unenriched) cage systems shall comply with the following requirements :

(a) at least 550 cm2 per hen of cage area, measured in a horizontal plane, which may be used without restriction, in particular not including non-waste deflection plates liable to restrict the area available, must be provided for each laying hen. However where the non-waste deflection plate is placed so as not to restrict the area available for the hens to use, then that area may be included in the measurement;

(b) a feed trough which may be used without restriction must be provided. Its length must be at least 10 cm multiplied by the number of hens in the cage;

(c) unless nipple drinkers or drinking cups are provided, each cage must have a continuous drinking channel of the same length as the feed trough mentioned in subparagraph (b). Where drinking points are plumbed in, at least two nipple drinkers or two cups must be within reach of each cage;

(d) cages must be at least 40 cm high over at least 65% of the cage area and not less than 35 cm at any point; the area being obtained by multiplying 550cm2 by the number of birds kept in the cage;

(e) floors of cages must be constructed so as support each of the forward- facing claws of each foot of each bird. Floor slope must not exceed 14% or 8 degrees when made of rectangular wire mesh and 21.3% or 12 degrees for other types of floor; and

(f) cages shall be fitted with suitable claw-shortening devices.

 

You should also refer to the Egg Marketing Standards (see reference section) regarding eggs from caged hens.

 

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Cages should be designed and maintained so as to minimise discomfort and distress and to prevent injury to the birds.

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Droppings should not be allowed to fall on birds in lower tiers of cages. Droppings pits below battery cages should be closed off to prevent birds gaining access.

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If there is evidence that the claws of hens are found to be overgrown or broken, then the provision of claw shortening devices should be enhanced. Excessively abrasive devices may cause injury so caution should be exercised in specifying such devices.

Enriched cages

 

Schedule 3C, provisions applicable to all cage systems (other than those referred to in Schedule 3B) of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England)(Amendment) Regulations 2002 (S.I. 2002 No.1646) states that:

All cage systems (other than those referred to in Schedule 3B) shall be enriched to comply with the requirements of this Schedule.

Laying hens must have -

(a) at least 750 cm2 of cage area per hen, 600 cm2 of which shall be usable; the height of the cage other than that above the usable area* shall be at least 20 cm at every point and no cage shall have a total area that is less than 2000 cm2;

(b) a nest;

(c) litter such that pecking and scratching are possible;

(d) appropriate perches allowing at least 15 cm per hen.

A feed trough which may be used without restriction must be provided. Its length must be at least 12 cm multiplied by the number of hens in the cage.

Each cage must have a drinking system appropriate to the size of the group; where nipple drinkers are provided, at least two nipple drinkers or two cups must be within the reach of each hen.

To facilitate inspection, installation and depopulation of hens there must be a minimum aisle width of 90 cm between tiers of cages and a space of at least 35 cm must be allowed between the floor of the building and the bottom tier of cages.

Cages must be fitted with suitable claw-shortening devices.

 

* Minimum cage height at the lowest point in the usable area is 45cm.

You should also refer to the Egg Marketing Standards (see reference section) regarding eggs from caged hens.

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If there is evidence that claws of hens are found to be overgrown or broken the provision of claw shortening devices should be enhanced. Excessively abrasive devices may cause injury so caution should be exercised in specifying such devices.

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The aisle width should be measured as the unobstructed width between the outer edges of the feed troughs. The distance to the floor should be measured to the mesh base of the cage.

 

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