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The Life Of A Caged Hen

  • by Bec
  • 4 min read
caged chickens
Caged Chickens

Have you seen the new advertisements running on television and media outlets at the moment about our egg producing hens?  The “That Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady” campaign, like many others that have been run, is aiming to raise awareness about the lives led by our egg producing hens here in Australia.

I am supportive of any campaign that might help put a stop to caged hens and I think this one is a really clever and engaging way to raise awareness. I enjoy the comical and yet still informative approach to the topic rather than the “shock value” approach with graphic and unpleasant (although truthful) images.  It still gets the message across to consumers and it is also nice to see a number of celebrities supporting the cause. The hope is that by supplying consumers with more facts about caged hens it will encourage them to re-consider the types of eggs they are purchasing and hopefully avoid the cage laid eggs.
So why is it that animal welfare organisations are constantly battling for caged hens to be freed? Basically, they think its cruel, and so do I. The way that these caged hens are expected to live is completely unnatural for them.

Here in Australia there are over 11 million caged hens being forced to live their lives in cages of 3-5 hens. They each have a minimum floor space of 550cm2, which is about the size of an A4 piece of paper. These cages are wire and only 40cm high, then stacked side by side, one on top of another.  The hens don’t have any room to stretch out their wings or stand up tall.  There is no nesting area, just a slanted wire floor.  Hens are unable to perform any normal chicken behaviours like flapping their wings, stretching out, nesting, foraging, dust bathing or perching, let alone having any personal space.  They even have their beaks cut in a procedure known as de-beaking or beak trimming to help prevent or reduce injuries from pecking, feather pecking and cannibalism.

How would you like to live like that?  It would be the equivalent of being stuck in an elevator with 10 other people, unable to move around or stretch out.  Made to stand or sit on an uneven wire floor that can cause bone deformities and pain.  I wouldn’t last a day, never mind a lifetime!  So why should we inflict this on another living creature?  Especially when there are more humane options available, like free range or even barn hens will experience a bit more freedom.

Under State and Federal Legislations keeping hens in cages is not illegal although many animal welfare and animal rights organisations, as well as members of the general public do see it as being cruel and inhumane.  Farmers are unable to be prosecuted for animal cruelty as long as they are adhering to their legal requirements and following the guidelines outlined in the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry.  Poultry farmers and the egg industry argue that the chickens must be happy and healthy as they are producing a high quantity of eggs.  The hens might be producing a large number of eggs in these battery poultry farms but at what cost to the animal?  Wouldn’t it be a better choice to have them out free ranging and still producing eggs but also living like chickens?

Around the world there are a number of countries bringing in laws to stop caged hens and protect the welfare rights of egg producing chickens.   Caged hens have been successfully outlawed in countries such as the United Kingdom, Austria and Switzerland.  Some US states have recently approved a ban on cage eggs, like California which will take effect in 2015 and a ban in Michigan by 2018.  Perhaps Australia is heading in the right direction of outlawing caged hens completely, as just recently in February 2014, the ACT passed a new law to ban battery cages for hens and the procedure of de-beaking.  This is a great step forward for the welfare rights of poultry and we can only hope that other Australian States and Territories will follow in putting a stop to the caged hen farming practices.  Last year Woolworths supermarkets committed to phasing out all cage eggs and by 2018 there will be no cage eggs available in their stores.  They also stated that the will stop using cage eggs as an ingredient in any of their home brand products.  This decision by Woolworths will hopefully see other supermarket chains follow in their footsteps and therefore putting an end to the demand for cage eggs.

So what can you, as an average Australian, do to help put an end to caged hens?  It’s simple don’t support the practice and don’t buy cage eggs.  It is all about supply and demand.  As long as there is a market for cage eggs and they keep selling them at the supermarkets the poultry industry will continue to produce, regardless of the animal welfare issues.  If the demand decreases for cage eggs and increases for barn laid or free range eggs then the number of caged hens will decrease.  So therefore the more Australians that are able to purchase free range or barn laid eggs means that more laying hens will be able to live a better life.

Below is a chart that explains some differences in the types of eggs available to purchase.  Read this chart and think about these points the next time you are standing in the egg aisle deciding which eggs to buy.


Ultimately the decision of what eggs you choose to eat is up to you.  All I can hope for is that one day all the egg producing chickens will be able to live a more free and happy life and they will all be treated with respect and cared for as they so rightfully deserve.

If you haven’t seen the “Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady” advertisments they can be viewed at

Until next time,

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