A Cage is a Cage

There has been a lot of discussion in the news lately about the “enriched” cages (also  known as “colony,” “furnished” or “modified” cages) as being a good alternative housing system for laying hens.

The Humane Farm Animal Care® (HFAC) standards do not allow conventional battery cages and do not and will not allow the “enriched” cage on our program.  Here are the reasons why:

Space:  There is not enough space for laying hens to move around, or flap their wings.
Laying hens need space to move around; they need between 151 – 252 sq. inches to turn around and between 168 – 404 sq. inches to flap their wings.  Dr. Marian Dawkins’ research showed that laying hens shunned cages with ceiling heights of less than 18” in height.

  • Conventional Cages:  Those that meet the United Egg Producers (UEP) standards have between 67- 76 sq. inches (depending on the size of the birds).  There are unfortunately some producers that don’t meet the UEP standards and have cage sizes as small as 48 sq. inches per bird.  The height of the cage is generally 14.9”
  •  “Enriched” Cages: There are different configurations of “enriched” cages.  Small cages that hold 10 – 12 birds, medium cages that hold 15 – 30 birds” and larger cages that hold 60 birds.  The usable space per bird is 93 sq. inches/bird. The height of the cage is 17.7 inches
"Enriched" Cage

"Enriched" Cage

Nest Boxes:  Lack of nesting/nest box space
Laying hens are very motivated to find a suitable nest site to lay their eggs.  This is an important welfare need to prevent frustration.  When there is no nest box/nesting area, laying hens can exhibit stereotypical behaviors that indicate frustration.

  • Conventional Cages:  No nest boxes
  • “Enriched” Cages:  There is usually one small nest box for each cage. Birds are forced to compete for the site each day.  Some hens may choose to remain in the nest box even when not laying eggs in an attempt to remove herself from the other hens in the confined space of the cage, thus preventing other hens from using the nest.

Perching/ Roosting: No elevated perches
Modern hens in production have retained the strong instinct to perch. Perching on elevated perches with their flockmates is a natural behavior which helps to conserve body heat.  When hens are prevented from gaining access to an elevated perch at night they may show signs of unrest.

  • Conventional Cages:  No elevated perches
  • “Enriched” Cages:  There are no real “elevated perches” (above 16”).  The perch that is in the “enriched” cage is 2 – 3” off the cage floor which does not address the need of the birds for elevated perches.  It also may be difficult for the birds to move around the cage and may not be easily accessible for many of the birds in cage.
Bird on Perch in "Enriched" Cage

Bird on Perch in "Enriched" Cage

Dustbathing:  Not adequate litter and area to dustbathe.
Dustbathing is an important requirement for laying hens because it contributes to both the physical and behavioral needs of the birds.  Dustbathing enables the hens to recondition their feathers, remove the build-up of stale oils produced by their bodies and parasites.  Dustbathing helps laying hens maintain a comfortable body temperature.

  • Conventional Cages:  No dustbathing
  • “Enriched” Cages:  There is not sufficient depth or size area for the hens to actually toss, rub and shake the litter through her feathers (in other words, dustbathe).

Laying Hens that are Certified Humane®:  Barn raised, aviaries, free range and pasture raised housing systems are allowed in the Certified Humane® program. (click here for more information and photos of laying hen housing and free range requirements)

All of these systems require that:

  • All hens have freedom of movement so they can space themselves in such away to allow individual hens to move from others;
  • All hens have sufficient room to exercise, stretch and flap their wings;
  • All hens can gain access to all the different facilities without difficulty;
  • Considerably more nest boxes are available to hens allowing the hens to gain access to the nest box of their choice.
  • Hens have perches are available to the hens that are high (elevated at least 16” off the ground) and low that do not detract from the overall floor area.
  • Hens are provided with enough space and access to litter to be able to dustbathe where and when they choose.


17 responses to “A Cage is a Cage

  1. Your work is soooo important for the animals and people who care about humane treatment of them.

    Thank you!

  2. CHaral Kellner

    This is so sad. Hard to understand why no one seems to care.

  3. Karin Goodlein

    What should we do if a company says they are certified humane but are not listed on your website? Michigan’s Herbrucks Green Meadow eggs packaging says they are certified humane. So does Brown Cow Yogurt in California.

    • Thanks so much for your comment. Herbrucks Green Meadows Eggs are Certified Humane® and they are listed on our Producer List on our website, if you scroll down, it is in the section where not all of a company’s products are certified. HOWEVER, Brown Cow Yogurt is NOT Certified Humane®. Our attorney has written to them asking them to “cease and desist” using the phrase Certified Humane® since that has been trademarked to us since 2009. If our label is not on it, I tell people not to buy it. I would like to copy your comments and send this to Herbrucks to let them know this. Also, the best place to check is our website producer list (as mentioned previously) and if you see Certified Humane® written on a product not on that list, please let us know asap. It is amazing how many companies flagrantly try to get the benefit of consumers believing they are Certified Humane® without actually going through the process of becoming certified.

      • Hi, I’m very curious as to why Brown Cow Yogurt is not certified humane as they are trying to advertise they are. What is it about that dairy that is not meeting the standard? I’m curious because I used to buy the yogurt when it had the certified humane label on it, but it’s been taken off I see. I would appreciate the information. Thank you.

      • Brown Cow never applied to be Certified by us.

  4. Even vegetarians and vegans can and should participate in the Humane Farm movement. Reduced meat consumption is fine; I participate by buying my meat from local farmers who give all of their animals good quality of life and raise their crops using organic and sustainable methods. Never a heavy meat eater, I eat even less meat now and know I’m not causing innocent animals to be tortured in the production of inferior food products. But even if you don’t use any animal based products at all, some people will continue to be meat consumers– and you can still do your part to reduce and someday eliminate the suffering that goes on.

    • Ready For Change

      I would have to completely agree with this statement. It is not realistic to assume everyone is going to go vegetarian or vegan, though I commend the people that are able to stick with such a strict regimen. Regardless of whether or not you choose to consume animal products, it is a way of life for many people that is not going away anytime soon, so making sure the treatement of the animals is humane is what everyone should strive for. This is an attainable goal unlike making everyone renounce their carniverous ways. No animal should be subjected to cruel, inhumane treatment for the benefit of our societies gluttonous ways. I am just so glad to see that this matter is finally getting the recognition it deserves. People are fed up, and ready for a change, regardless of whether it costs just a little bit more to support producers that treat their animals in a humane manner. I am also so happy to see websites like this that give people the true facts on what is really going on at the factory farms, how to decipher what the food labels are really saying, and the necessary tools to make informed decisions about where products are coming from.

  5. Thank you for this article. I recently noticed Walmart was offering Cage Free chicken eggs and while they were a little higher not that much and I purchased them over all the other egg company choices.
    Producers needs to wise up, the public is being made aware of how America’s food animals are being treated and we will show preference at the grocery store to humane and cage tree food products.
    I personally will gladly pay the $1.00 or so difference just to know that that animal was treated humanely at the producers.

    • Cage Free is a good start, but without specific standards, like perches, dustbathing, nestboxes, space requirements and air quality is like having one big giant cage. If you want to make sure that you are buying eggs from birds that meet our standards, go to our website to the “where to buy” section and also if you shop at Wal-Mart, you could go to our “take action” page and download one of our grocery request forms which asks the grocery where you shop to stock products that are Certified Humane®. Consumers like you will help make a real change in the way farm animals are raised by demanding products that are Certified Humane®.

  6. Thank God someone is giving these wonderful birds a more “normal” life as short as it may be. Chicken is such a HUGE source of food in America, the least we can do is treat them decently!

  7. The cruelty to our animals makes me very sad. I hope someday we are all on the same page. I know many people need to eat meat, eggs, chickens, pigs…etc. why cant we give them a good life until they are used for food. They deserve that much. Indians killed buffalos but only as many as they needed and did it with respect…we have no respect for our farm animals. The people who work in these slaughter houses need to help by standing up for what they must do and see….An animal feels pain, being scared, and should have as human a death as our domestic pets……I pray this will someday be the way of the world . Until then we must do all we can.

  8. Hi and you betcha I really do have something to say about this. Factory farming is inhumane for starters and believe we should go back to private farming by independent farmers whom did a much better job than any stupid factory. At least our animals had a bit of freedom and were able to graze normally they way they would if left to their own. Beside if one really wants to eat these beautiful creatures at least they were free and clear of all pesticides, etc., and had a life. Anything that is corralled within a pen is definitely ;not healthy for they also need the ability to roam around within their pasture and communicate with others too. Have a heart you dirty ald stuffed shirts that the only thing you can see is MONEY which is definitely the greedy aspirations of all today and it is a total shame. Everybody would be happier and everybody would have a goal to work toward. The stuffed shirts of the government are totally sicko, thankyou very much.

  9. CHaral Kellner

    Thank you so much, Dani. I appreciate what you said.

    Charal Kellner

  10. All animals, (no matter what their used for), have to have a comfortable place to live-in!

  11. I agree with most of what has been said here, though i must say that some of the rhetoric is a little “out there”. I am on this website obviously because I care about what food I and my family eat. So proper handling of our animals (as part of our food source!) should be an important part of the whole picture. If you watch a movies like Food Inc., you will get the obvious impression that greed is in the process of taking over our food supply. Less than honorable practices are being defended with the argument that price matters. In that respect, I am grateful to this organization and others like them for keeping food producers honest, some of which are no doubt lying to the American public by misrepresenting their products. I also have great respect for life, any life created life knowing it is a gift from the Creator, like the native Americans did when they killed for food.They showed respect for the life of the animal by using the whole animal and wasting little or nothing and gave thanks to “The Great Spirit in the sky”. I wonder how many of these above ladies would consider that option. I also wonder how many of this overwhelmingly female crowd of Americans would apply their obvious heartfelt concern for life to the babies that are killed even before they are able to “see the sky, breath the air, roam the earth and enjoy the life that y’all enjoy”. that so many of you want for these animals that are created as part of our sustenance and our pleasure, that is if we don’t need food or have decided to eat grass instead. Regardless of any other argument, we should be against ANY cruelty against ANY life! We ought to have and show respect for life – any life in any form, since it is not ours to do with as we please! Kindness is not a term for the benefit of human beings only, but towards all life given by God.
    Bottom line is respecting the life of our animals by treating them humanly, whether you consider them as part of our food source or as pets or as part of this world’s wonder to enjoy is what I would call good stewardship, a role which carries with it eventual accountability!

  12. I am glad you are taking a stand on enriched cages.

    They are obviously an attempt to satisfy too many vested interests against the overall welfare of chickens.

    Here in the UK we have been supporting Compassion in World Farming and it is very good for us to have a yardstick against which to view how the U.S. is doing things.

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