RSPCA Assured Egg-Laying Hen Welfare

RSPCA Assured Egg-Laying Hen Welfare

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RSPCA Assured hens

Every year in the UK, we consume over 13 billion eggs. These come from 57 million egg-laying hens and it is a sad fact that just under 45% of these hens are still kept in the modern cage (called a colony or enriched cage, but still a cage).

This means they are raised in cages made of wire where each hen is allocated less usable space than an A4 sheet of paper.

What makes RSPCA Assured different?
Our welfare standards for hens, which must be met for eggs to be labelled RSPCA Assured,

have never allowed cages. On RSPCA Assured farms, hens are either kept in barns with plenty of space, perches and nest boxes, or in free-range systems where they also have access to an outside range.

Barn hens
These are large open barns containing floor material for the birds to dustbathe and forage in, and allow the hens to carry out natural behaviours. The hens are also provided with space to move around inside the barn and to perch freely so they can rest when necessary.

Free-range hens
Much like the barn system, free-range hens are kept in large barns but also have access to the outside through openings called 'popholes'.

How are hens kept in cages?
Caged hens are kept in wire mesh cages where each hen is allocated less usable space 

RSPCA Assured egg-laying hen standards

Our standards cover the health, diet, housing and equipment, and daily care of chickens from birth through to slaughter. More specifically, our higher welfare standards ensure that all chickens have:

  • More space to roam around
  • Natural daylight for indoor birds 
  • Raised perches to perch on 
  • More daily inspections
  • Straw bales and other objects for them to peck at
  • Welfare assured from birth to slaughter

than an A4 sheet of paper. These birds are also denied access to open areas where they can dustbathe and indulge in their natural behaviours more freely.

Why hens like to dust bathe
Hens dust bathe to help keep themselves clean. Dust bathing is an effective way to remove parasites from their skin and keep their feathers in good condition and helps regulate body temperature. Hens on RSPCA Assured farms must always be provided with the opportunity to dustbathe.

Hens like to perch
Raised perches are extremely important for hens; they help to improve bone strength and allow the hens to rest undisturbed. All hens on RSPCA Assured farm must have access to raised perches. Hens like to roost on perches at night with their flock. In the wild, this protects them from predators and conserves body heat.

RSPCA Assured hens
RSPCA Assured hens are NEVER kept in cages. They must also be provided with environmental enrichment objects, such as knotted rope and straw bales, to peck at and keep them occupied. The RSPCA welfare standards cover all aspects of the hens' lives, including health, diet, environment and care. We even assess the hatcheries, hauliers and abattoirs, not just the farm, to ensure the hens’ welfare from birth to slaughter.

laying hens in enriched cages

Check for hidden ingredients
Don’t forget that eggs are also used as ingredients in food including ice cream, mayonnaise, cakes, quiches and sandwiches. Look for the  RSPCA Assured logo or check the ingredients list to see if cage-free eggs have been used.

What are RSPCA approved eggs?
For eggs to be labelled RSPCA Assured, the farms they come from are visited by RSPCA Assured assessors and the RSPCA's farm livestock officers to check that the standards

are being met. You'll find lots more information about the welfare of laying hens on the RSPCA website.

Where can I buy RSPCA assured eggs?
RSPCA Assured  free-range eggs are widely available in supermarkets across the UK. Look out for them on your weekly shop in stores like Sainsbury’s, Co-op, Aldi, Lidl, Morrisons and Tesco.

If you can’t find RSPCA Assured labelled eggs in your supermarket, you can use our Lobby your supermarket tool to let them know that you want to buy RSPCA Assured in the future.