Eliminating Cruelty in Egg Production: Towards the Welfare of Layer Hens

30 Apr 2024

Behind the scenes of commercial egg production involving approximately 150 million layer hens in Indonesia, a grim reality unfolds: most of them are confined in extremely cramped living conditions, locked in small wire or bamboo cages known as "battery cages." Animal welfare experts have deemed battery cages one of the cruelest forms of animal confinement (, 2023). Chickens, sentient beings capable of feeling pain, endure unacceptable suffering when confined in cages throughout their lives.

Solutions for the Welfare of Layer Hens: Alternative Husbandry
1. Cage-Free Husbandry:
In this system, hens live in cages without outdoor access, but they can move, perch, peck at straw or sand, and have access to nesting boxes for laying eggs. This provides an opportunity for hens to engage in their natural behaviors, significantly reducing their suffering.
2. Free-Range Husbandry: This system grants hens access to grassy areas during the day, allowing them to enjoy sunlight and engage in natural activities such as scratching the ground for insects and food. At night, they can sleep in sheltered spaces.
3. Village Chicken Husbandry: Animal welfare principles have been applied to village chicken husbandry with a free-range system. Though traditional, this system meets animal welfare standards and is now adopted for use in large-scale chicken farming.

Productivity of Layer Hens and Animal Welfare
It is important to note that egg production in free-range systems is not significantly different from that in battery cages. This opens the door for the use of free-range systems that are welfare-friendly on a larger scale. Through the implementation of better alternative husbandry practices, we can eliminate cruelty in egg production and ensure the welfare of layer hens. This step is not only morally right but also provides an opportunity to develop a sustainable and environmentally friendly egg industry.

Transition Opportunities to a Free-Range Rearing System for Broiler Chickens
The production performance of broiler chickens raised in free-range systems is not significantly different from that of those produced in conventional cages. This allows for a transition from conventional systems to free-range rearing systems. Thus, not only egg production but also broiler chicken production can adopt more ethical and sustainable practices, leading to positive changes in the overall poultry farming industry.

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