Battery Cages - Crook for Chooks?

What do you know about Battery cages for Poultry? Many folk are in total opposition to the way in which eggs are produced form poultry that are housed in battery cages and there are good reasons for their criticism.

The problem is, of course, related to the dollar. Producing battery laid eggs is the cheapest form of egg production. The eggs are produced in a clean state and diseases are minimised. The costs of collecting the eggs are reduced and the costs of feeding the hens are minimised because most of it is done mechanically.

The chooks though, are not very appreciative.

Given the choice between food delivered by a mechanical auger and that which they can find by scratching around in that 'terrible stuff' called bare earth, I'm sure the chooks would prefer the latter.

Dr Wirth, veterinarian and president of RSPCA Australia, says battery hens are kept in tiny cages with each chook having less than the area of an A4 piece of paper to stand in.

"Research shows the battery cage system causes great frustration to the hens because they cannot perform their normal behaviours - the hen cannot stand properly, preen its feathers, stretch out, flap its wings, lay in nests, perch, dust bathe or socialise. It may have difficulty turning around. Battery cages can also cause serious damage to the feet and claws from the mesh floor and lack of perches. In addition, skeletal and muscle weakness can be caused by restricted movement and lack of exercise," Dr Wirth said.

 Battery hens are kept in tiny cages with each chook having less than the area of an A4 piece of paper to stand in.


In short, the scientific evidence indicates that battery hens suffer intensely and continuously throughout their time of close confinement in cages.

Imagine if you were one of the 10.5 million battery-caged hens in Australia. You would be kept for about a year in wire mesh cages which are only 40-cm high. The floor area allocated for you would be 450 cm2.

Is that small? Measure a chicken next time you see one. A standard laying hen is at least 40-cm high when she stands erect and is approximately 45-cm long and 18-cm wide, without her wings extended. Her body space takes therefore takes up an area of about 810 square centimetres. How can you humanely place a bird of this size in a cage that is lower than she is tall and where she would be allocated almost half the space that her body area requires?

Think about becoming a 'convert' to backyard chooks. To chooks busily exploring the backyard is just wonderful. They are always on the go. They scratch around in the compost and leaf mulch dining on grubs, worms and other creepy-crawlies. And they dust bathe. They do this in the most amazing of places getting themselves filthy dirty and gloriously happy. They chatter, cluck and squark all day long and go into an amazing vocal oratory about the meaning of life whenever they have produced an egg. They seem so proud of their efforts.

Three to six chooks will produce enough eggs for the standard family's needs. And when they're too old to lay? Let them remain as pets as a token of thanks for the joy they have given you. Will you eat them? After watching their glorious behaviours, there's as much chance of that as you eating your pet cat or dog.

Eggs can be humanely produced in a commercial facility. The RSPCA asks the Australian public to support alternative systems of egg production.

Dr Wirth says "It is simply up to the Australian public to care enough about the suffering of battery hens to insist on humane egg production."

There are alternatives to battery egg production in the form of barn and free-range housing systems or you can keep your own hens.

Barn laying and free range systems allow hens the freedom to behave naturally and provide them with a suitable environment for laying.

Next time you or your family are buying eggs, for the sake of the millions of laying hens in
Australia, please help the RSPCA to get hens out of battery cages - think before you choose your eggs.