Laying hens - what are we doing?

We are working in many different ways to improve the welfare of laying hens at all stages of their lives.

Pushing for stronger laws to protect laying hens

We take every opportunity to stress the need to ban all cages, and the advantages of keeping hens in well-managed higher welfare systems - barn and free-range. For example:

  • In 2005, we produced a report titled The Case Against Cages (PDF 0.51MB). explaining the need for all cages to be banned and replaced with suitable alternative systems.
  • We commissioned research (Coming of Age RSPCA report (PDF 0.80MB)), which showed that most UK cage egg producers would have needed to invest in new facilities by 2012, when the legal requirements for cage design changed. We therefore urged farmers to invest in free-range or barn systems, rather than converting cages.

Campaigning work

For many years we have campaigned to have eggs from caged hens clearly labelled to allow consumers to make an informed choice about which production system they support when they buy eggs.

RSPCA campaign - eggs with politician's signatures © Andrew Forsyth/RSPCA Photolibrary

Since 2004 the law has required all eggs and egg boxes to be labelled according to the method of production ¿ either eggs from caged hens, barn, free-range or organic. We urge retailers to make sure that their labelling is clear, and that all products containing eggs as ingredients are also labelled as eggs from free-range, barn, organic or caged hens.

Developing RSPCA welfare standards

We develop detailed RSPCA welfare standards for laying hens and pullets, which contain requirements to ensure that higher standards of animal welfare are met at all stages of the hens' lives. The standards do not allow hens to be kept in cages, and are much more detailed and strict than minimum legal requirements.

The vast majority of free-range and barn eggs in the UK come from hens inspected to these standards through the RSPCA Assured scheme.

Using scientific research to improve laying hen welfare

Scientific evidence is very important when we are trying to find practical solutions to laying hen welfare problems, which are sometimes very complex. Further information is available in our Science Group area.

If you're concerned about laying hen welfare, you may like to know more about how you can help.

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