5 July 2002

Cloud over caged layer production

ANIMAL welfare minister Elliot Morleys concerns about the battery cage ban – which will mean housing all laying hens in enriched cages in England by 2012 – have led to suggestions that all caged layer production will be banned.

SAC researchers studying alternative housing systems for laying hens believe the issues are not straightforward. "Where birds are housed in free-range and perchery/barn systems, outbreaks of feather pecking and cannibalism can occur, leading to high mortality."

Various practices can be used to manage this problem. But they believe controlling light intensity, which reduces feather pecking, is difficult in extensive systems and beak trimming is also due to be banned shortly.

But SAC research shows perches can cut aggression by reducing bird density on the floor and providing a refuge for bullied birds. During the day, they found 20-30% of hens use perches at any time and even more perch at night. &#42