hen farming in new zealand
There are over three million hens in New Zealand producing eggs on caged farms (83%), in barns (3%) and on free range farms (14%). In caged systems hens are confined in small cages in dark sheds, with little or no natural light. Hens natural behaviours are suppressed; they cannot perch, preen, or spread their wings. They will never feel the sun, scratch the earth or forage for food. They are denied the opportunity to make nests, dust bathe, and engage in normal social interactions. Even where they are allowed to free range, the flock size and limited space see restrictions on the chickens abilities to act in a manner that is natural for them.
Many hens suffer extreme feather loss due to the constant rubbing of cage wire against their bodies, and pecking from other distressed hens. On barn and free range farms hens are often kept in flocks so large that the hens become very stressed and will over-peck their flock mates resulting in extreme feather loss.
Hens are routinely de-beaked; a process where chicks have their beaks cut back with a hot blade, causing instant and chronic pain. This practice is not confined to caged hens but extends throughout the entire industry, including barn and free range systems.
With current welfare arguments being played out in the media and the political arena still centred around whether or not a hen should have the ability to move about, perch and dust bathe it could be many decades until anyone even thinks about allowing production hens to meet their mums and participate in chicken society properly, despite that fact that these later items are just as important to a hens welfare as the ability to move.
However, even if there were to be vast improvements in hen welfare nothing would save production chickens from an unnatural and premature death. Where chickens would naturally live for 12 years all hens in the egg industry are killed at just two years of age. Perhaps even more shocking is that fact that the brothers of the hens are gassed or ground alive at just one day of age.
Farmwatch's Advocacy for Hens
Layer Hen Rescue
Hens rescued during caged egg farm investigation.
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To see images of New Zealand layer hen farms taken by Farmwatch click here.
Find out about the personalities and abilities of chickens.
New Zealand Egg Industry Quick Facts