Egg laying hens are one of the few types of farm animal in the UK that, on some farms, are still kept in close-confinement cage systems for all of their productive lives. Around 35 million egg laying hens were reared in the UK in 2012, of which around 49 per cent (around 17 million) were kept in cages. This has decreased from about 69 per cent 10 years ago because more and more people are choosing eggs from hens kept in higher-welfare alternative systems, such as barn or free-range.
Hens are naturally inquisitive animals with a strong desire to perch, preen themselves, dustbathe, forage and nest. Although the design of battery cages changed by law across Europe in 2012, from the barren to the so-called ‘enriched’ battery cage, we are still very concerned that hens can’t carry out all of their important natural behaviours properly in such an environment. We want to see all laying hens kept in well-managed free-range or barn systems instead.
We’re working very hard to try to improve the conditions in which all laying hens are reared, transported and slaughtered/killed, and to get better laws to protect them.
As well as the information on these pages, we've also produced The welfare of laying hens information sheet February 2013 (PDF: 1,265 KB).