Caged Eggs

Last updated 22 September 2020

Right now in Australia, approximately 9 million ‘battery’ hens are confined to small wire cages which deny them the ability to perform most of their natural behaviours. ‘Battery’ systems involve row after row of stacked cages resembling the cells of a large battery, with sometimes hundreds of thousands of hens in each single shed.

Caged henHen in a caged shed. Image: Dillon Watkin

The space allocation for each bird is less than the size of a piece of A4 paper and cages are typically only 40cm high. Small cages mean hens are unable to stretch out, flap their wings, dust bath, scratch, perch or forage. These birds spend their time continually standing on sloping wire floors designed to facilitate egg collection; many experience chronic pain from the development of lesions and other foot problems

battery cage farmRows of caged hens.

A huge source of stress and frustration for battery caged hens is their inability to nest when they need to lay an egg. Stress from being housed in these conditions can cause hens to become aggressive towards one another, which can lead to peck injuries, cannibalism and death. When hens become aggressive there is nowhere for those who are being bullied to escape.

hens in battery cage (1)Hens in a battery cage.

Scientific studies indicate that battery hens suffer intensely while continually confined in cages. Restricted movement, constant exposure to a wire floor, and lack of perches lead to serious bone and muscle weakness; because of this, hens in battery systems have the highest number of fractures at the end of their lives out of all egg-laying housing systems.

Hen that has lost a majority of her feathers in a battery facility.

The egg industry argues that the high laying rates in battery cages indicate healthy, productive hens. However, the overwhelming consensus among animal welfare experts is that the welfare of hens is severely compromised. A detailed European report makes a clear case against battery cages: