Key egg laying hen welfare problems and how RSPCA Assured helps

Key egg laying hen welfare problems and how RSPCA Assured helps

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Around 50 per cent of egg laying hens in the UK are still kept in battery cages.

This is a major concern as cages - mainly made of wire mesh - don’t allow hens enough space or the ability to scratch freely and perch comfortably.

Restricting hens' behaviour can lead to frustration and suffering.

What makes RSPCA Assured different?

The RSPCA welfare standards for hens - which must be met for eggs to be labelled RSPCA Assured - don’t allow cages.

Hens are either kept in barns with plenty of space, perches and nest boxes or in free range systems where hens also have access to an outside range.


Battery cages:

  • Don't allow birds to move freely
  • May prevent hens from resting
  • Don’t allow hens to dust bathe and forage properly
  • Prevent escape from bullying

No hens on the RSPCA Assured scheme are kept in cages

The RSPCA welfare standards cover all aspects of the hens' lives, including health, diet, environment and care. 

RSPCA Assured assessors - and the RSPCA’s farm livestock officers - check that the RSPCA welfare standards are being met.

Based on the latest scientific evidence, the standards are much more detailed and strict than minimum legal requirements.

Watch our video and find out more!


How you can help

You can make a difference by choosing eggs labelled RSPCA Assured.

If you can’t find RSPCA Assured-labelled eggs then look for free range, barn or organic.

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 label or check the ingredients list to see if cage-free eggs have been used.

Hens in barn

Lay hens on farm

Hens have better lives under the RSPCA Assured scheme:

  • They're never kept in cages
  • Hens are provided with objects to peck at such as knotted rope and straw bales
  • Litter and dust bathing boxes allow hens to dust bathe together
  • Raised perches improve bone strength and allow hens to rest undisturbed. 

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

Did you know?

  • If hens are frustrated or don't have something they need they might make a sound known as a 'gakel-call'
  • 'Comfort behaviour' is important to hens and includes feather ruffling, head scratching, body shaking, wing stretching and flapping
  • Dustbathing removes parasites, keeps skin and feathers in good condition and helps regulate body temperature
  • Hens like to roost on perches at night with their flock. In the wild this protects them from predators and conserves body heat