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Animal Welfare on the Farm - Laying hens

by 5m Editor
8 May 2007, at 11:02am

EU - Council Directive 1999/74/EC, adopted in 1999, distinguishes three types of rearing systems for laying hens:

  • Enriched cages where laying hens have at least 750 cm² of cage area per hen;
  • Not enriched cage systems where hens have at least 550 cm² of cage area per hen. From 1 January 2003 onwards such cages may not anymore be built or utilised for the first time. By January 2012 at the latest this system must be prohibited;
  • Non-cage systems with nests (at least one for 7 hens), adequate perches and where the stocking density does not exceed 9 laying hens per m² usable area.

The hens kept in the enriched cage systems and the non-cage systems must also have a nest, perching space of 15cm per hen, litter to allow pecking and scratching and unrestricted access to a feed trough measuring at least 12cm per hen in the cage.

Article 7 of the Directive provides that all egg production units must be registered with the competent authorities in Member States. They must each have a distinguishing number which will be used to trace eggs back to the farm where they were produced. The arrangements for registrations laid out in Commission Directive 2002/4/EC have been adopted by the Commission after consultation of the veterinary representatives of the Member States.

Article 10 of the Directive provides that the Commission shall submit to the Council a report on the various systems of rearing laying hens. This will take into account inter alia an EFSA opinion on this subject and a specific socio-economic study (please note that the updated version now available contains corrections to tables in chapter 2.4 concerning production costs ).

It is planned to submit the Commission's report to the Council and the European Parliament in the second half 2007 in order to take account of the final results of a Community-funded research project ("LAYWEL") which investigated the welfare implications of changes in production systems for laying hens. The Commission's Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) has also published a report giving an overview of a series of missions carried out in 2004 concerning animal welfare standards on holdings with laying hens.

5m Editor