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Hens have a strong, natural instinct to perch and ‘raised perches’ in laying hen houses provide them with the perfect refuge to rest and preen.
This is why the current RSPCA welfare standards for laying hens include more requirements for farmers to install raised perches for their birds.
Research and practical experience have shown that giving hens the chance to perch can mean they experience less frustration, reduced aggression and improved body condition.
It’s very important to ensure perches are built in the right way. Hens naturally want to use them, but they can find badly designed or positioned perches difficult to navigate.
Therefore, the RSPCA welfare standards ensure perches are positioned in a way that makes it easier for hens to access the perches and land safely.
RSPCA Farm Animals Senior Scientific Officer for poultry, Dr Kate Norman said: "Almost 5 years since the introduction of raised perches to the RSPCA welfare standards, we have received positive feedback from farmers reporting the birds use the perches well for resting and preening during the day. With careful design and positioning of perches, we can see the benefits perches have on the behaviour and welfare of the birds.”
RSPCA farm animal welfare scientist and laying hen welfare expert Mia Fernyhough said: "It's similar to children in a playground.
"Here they can get bumps, bruises, scrapes and broken bones, but the broader benefits of providing an environment where a range of important behaviours can be performed outweigh these harms.
"What's most important is that the risk of harm is reduced as much as possible by ensuring perches are appropriately designed, positioned and maintained."
“Give a laying hen a suitable perch and she’ll use it. If you don’t, she’ll attempt to perch on just about anything else no matter how unsuitable it is!”
Mia Fernyhough, RSPCA farm animal welfare scientist
“It’s clear our hens are less fearful and less aggressive as the perches provide a perfect refuge for some peace and quiet to rest and preen. And not only that, our birds look good too - really healthy and happy.”
RSPCA Assured laying hen farmer Garth Johnston, Skea Eggs
“The hens love the perches and going home to roost is part of their daily routine. Since installing them the birds seem a lot more relaxed and content. And it’s true that happier, healthier hens lay better eggs.”
RSPCA Assured laying hen producer Eileen Thomson, Farmlay Eggs