Not a good home for a hen
In a barren battery cage, a hen is unable to carry out many of her most basic natural behaviours. This causes her extreme physical and psychological stress.
In Europe, a battery cage typically holds four or five hens with a legal floor space allowance per bird of less than an A4 sheet of paper. The height of the cage is only just enough to allow the hens to stand upright.
The cages usually have a sloping wire mesh floor and are stacked in rows several tiers high. Each unit holds thousands of hens this way. Hens in these cages are typically kept in closed sheds that are artificially lit and ventilated.
A hen in a battery cage is unable to forage for food, lay her eggs in a nest, roost, stretch her wings or dust-bathe.
Frustrated and unable to perform their natural behaviour, hens start pecking each other’s feathers. To prevent feather-pecking, producers subject day-old chicks to ‘beak-trimming’. This serious mutilation involves cutting off around a third of a chicken’s beak with an infra-red beam, without anaesthetic.
Modern commercial hens have been bred to produce very high numbers of eggs. This depletes their store of calcium and can result in high levels of osteoporosis (brittle bones) and fractures. Their restricted movement in battery cages can also contribute to osteoporosis.
Several tiers of crowded cages make inspection difficult and in large cage systems injured birds may be left to die unnoticed.
Cages and Salmonella
Even though it is often claimed that confined animals are better protected from infection, a recent UK survey found that the prevalence of Salmonella infection was more than three times higher in cage systems than in free-range systems.