Report on the welfare of laying hens

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by LittleChickenRacingTeam, Apr 10, 2008.

  1. LittleChickenRacingTeam

    LittleChickenRacingTeam On vacation

    Jan 11, 2007
    Ontario, CANADA
    Background
    1. The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) was established in 1979. Its terms of reference are to keep under review the welfare of farm animals on agricultural land, at market, in transit and at the place of slaughter, and to advise Agriculture Ministers of any legislative or other changes that may be necessary. The Council has the freedom to consider any topic falling within this remit. Our membership is at Appendix A.

    2. FAWC has published three other reports concerning the welfare of hens: an Assessment of Egg Production Systems (1986); Advice to Ministers on the Handling and Transport of Poultry (1990); and The Welfare of Laying Hens in Colony Systems (1991).

    3. The House of Commons Select Committee on Agriculture noted in its 1994 report on the UK Poultry Industry that FAWC had not produced a detailed report about the welfare of hens in battery cage systems. This, coupled with the fact that the European Commission planned to review the welfare of hens kept in various systems with a view to making proposals for changes to the relevant EU legislation, prompted the Council to commence a study of UK systems of egg production and to assess these on the basis of hen welfare. Accordingly, a working group of FAWC members was established and asked to provide advice to the Council. This report summarises the outcome of our study and makes recommendations to GB Agriculture Ministers.

    Method of Investigation
    4. The working group carried out an extensive consultation exercise, obtained oral and written evidence from a wide range of experts and carefully examined scientific data. Visits were made to a number of egg producers, both large and small, and meetings were held with representatives from industry, research bodies and from animal protection societies.

    5. Those who gave evidence and information are listed at Appendix B and we would like to thank all who participated. In particular, the Council is indebted to Mr Arnold Elson of ADAS who attended the working group meetings and visits and provided expert advice.

    6. The study examined three main types of production system: cages (including enrichment), free range and other alternative systems. Each type was considered in its own right and no attempt was made to compare systems.

    Philosophy of Approach
    7. The welfare of an animal includes both its physical and mental state and we believe that good animal welfare implies both fitness and a sense of well-being. Any animal kept by man must, at least, be protected from unnecessary suffering.

    8. FAWC believes that the welfare of an animal whether on-farm, in transit, at market or at place of slaughter should be considered with reference to the "Five Freedoms". These freedoms define ideal states rather than attempt to define standards for acceptable welfare. They form a logical and comprehensive framework for the analysis of welfare within any system, together with the steps and compromises necessary to safeguard and improve welfare within the proper constraints of an efficient livestock industry.

    FREEDOM FROM HUNGER AND THIRST

    - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.


    FREEDOM FROM DISCOMFORT

    - by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a

    comfortable resting area.

    FREEDOM FROM PAIN, INJURY AND DISEASE

    - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.

    FREEDOM TO EXPRESS NORMAL BEHAVIOUR

    - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind.

    FREEDOM FROM FEAR AND DISTRESS

    - by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

    9. The Council has considered how those with responsibility for the care of livestock can help to ensure that these freedoms can be provided. It concluded that those in charge of livestock should practice:


    caring and responsible planning and management;
    skilled, knowledgeable and conscientious stockmanship;
    appropriate environmental design;
    considerate handling and transport; and
    humane slaughter.

    These general requirements and the Five Freedoms can be applied to the keeping of laying hens; this approach formed the background to our study.
     
  2. LittleChickenRacingTeam

    LittleChickenRacingTeam On vacation

    Jan 11, 2007
    Ontario, CANADA
    History
    10. Early this century, egg production was based on small flocks of hens kept outdoors on mixed farms alongside other animal and crop enterprises. As farming became more specialised, the average flock size increased and the hens were kept mainly in houses with littered or part littered floors, often with access to an outdoor enclosure. Parasitic disease problems occurred commonly when many hens were kept on litter in limited areas. Various perforated (mainly timber slats or wire mesh) floored systems were developed in the 1930-1950 period to separate hens from their faeces and thus to minimise the risk of parasitic disease. However, these systems often resulted in problems of hysteria, feather pecking and cannibalism. The deep litter system, usually operating on two levels comprising part littered/part raised floored areas, gained popularity for large scale egg production.

    11. During the 1930s the first commercial cages for laying hens were developed in the USA; these cages were designed to house single birds and consisted of a wooden framework with wire mesh floors. Feed and water provision, egg collection and removal of manure were all done by hand. Laying cages gradually evolved in the UK during the 1930s and 1940s and many were constructed entirely of metal. The detailed design of early cages was not ideal and often death and injury were caused by birds being trapped. However, hygiene was much improved, parasitic diseases virtually disappeared, and injurious feather pecking and cannibalism were reduced. After many years of subsequent development, mortality due to accidents and trapping in cages is now at a very low level.

    12. During the 1940s, many laying flocks were moved from free range and semi-intensive systems to deep litter houses and wire floored houses. During the 1950s there was a rapid and sustained change towards laying cages. This took place, in particular, to make management easier but was also prompted by welfare and disease problems which were then prevalent in the veranda, straw yard, deep litter and wire floor group systems. Initially these cages were for single birds but in the early 1950s twin bird cages became popular and multi-bird cages soon followed. The trend continued during the 1960s (see Table 1). During this period the economic and welfare benefits of higher house temperature were discovered and the number of tiers of cages and stocking density in laying houses increased. Also at this time the realisation that there were production benefits from the use of controlled lighting patterns led to the common adoption of windowless, artificially lit housing. Improved house insulation was adopted to prevent condensation at higher stocking densities and fan controlled ventilation systems were introduced to cope with excess heat in summer. The result was the emergence of controlled environment housing which has continued in use until the present, now with increasing automation of control systems.

    13. As cages, in various configurations, came into general use in the UK, feed and water provision, as well as egg and manure removal, were increasingly mechanised. Today about 86% of the UK's commercial egg production is derived from caged hens. Cages in various forms have evolved as the predominant system that reduces the management and disease problems found in other systems. However, there is an increasing awareness that hens are restricted in their freedom to move and ability to express fully a number of their behaviour patterns. Furthermore, there has been increasing public concern about the continued use of battery cages.

    14. During the last ten years there has been a developing interest within the poultry industry in alternatives to battery cages; these "alternative systems" are described in Part III. This change was influenced by public attitudes to animal welfare and the willingness of a small proportion of consumers to pay a premium price for eggs from non-cage systems.

    15. During the last 60 years, improvement in laying performance has been remarkable, as measured for example, by numbers of eggs laid per hen housed (total eggs laid by the flock divided by the number of hens originally placed in the house). The increase averages almost three eggs per hen per annum. Well managed flocks currently achieve about 310 eggs per hen per year (see

    Table 2).

    Table 1. Changes in egg production systems, % of eggs




    Cage systems
    Litter or perchery (barn) systems
    Free range

    1946

    -
    -
    98

    1951

    8
    12
    80

    1956

    15
    40
    45

    1963

    27
    56
    17

    1966

    67
    25
    8

    1976

    94
    2
    4

    1980

    95
    4
    1

    1986

    93
    2
    5

    1990

    85
    3
    12

    1993

    85
    3
    12

    1995

    87
    2
    11

    1996

    86
    3
    11

    Adapted from data of MAFF and in the Museum of the British Poultry Industry.

    Table 2. Performance improvements in hen housed egg production

    (eggs per bird per year)


    1936
    149

    1946
    121

    1956
    170

    1966
    202

    1976
    245

    1986
    279

    1996
    310


    Size and Structure
    16. In 1995 there were about 32 million laying hens in the UK distributed among about 28,000 holdings. The industry has been moving steadily towards greater specialisation and larger units but with a continuing population of small poultry flocks often on mixed farms. There are several companies which own a million hens or more, and there is a large second group of egg producers with about 50,000 to 500,000 hens each. In 1995, 300 holdings with over 20,000 birds accounted for 73% of the UK flock. However, there were still 27,000 holdings with less than 5,000 birds each, accounting for about 8% of the UK flock (MAFF, 1996). Of eggs passing through registered packing stations, about 86% are produced by hens kept in laying cages; about 11% are free range; and 3% from perchery (barn) and other systems.

    17. The RSPCA Freedom Food Scheme and the British Egg Industry Council Lion Code of Practice lay down standards of welfare for hens producing free range and barn eggs. Some other organisations are also developing their own quality assurance and welfare schemes. Producers are being encouraged or required, largely due to the influence of the supermarkets to meet the standards laid down by these bodies.


    Introduction
    18. Systems of keeping hens can be classified as intensive or extensive. Intensive housing systems include cages, percheries, aviaries, deep litter and covered yards. Free range systems are extensive.

    19. Percheries and aviaries have been in common use for about 15 years. They are multi-level systems which encourage birds to use the three dimensions of a building rather than just the floor level. Most systems provide feed, water and nesting facilities, as well as perches or platforms, at several levels. Most, but not all, incorporate littered areas.

    20. Deep litter systems are also still in use. They generally have about 50% of the floor area as litter and the remainder as a raised perforated floor over a manure collection area.

    21. Free range production can consist of any of the above housing systems, except cages, but with the essential proviso that hens should have continuous day time access to land mainly covered with vegetation.

    22. Some functions of most of the systems can be mechanically controlled, and in modern larger units, feed and water provision and egg collection are often automated. Within each system there may be considerable variation in design detail. Systems seen during the study are listed at Appendix C.

    Laying cages
    23. The laying cage is basically a perforated box with a sloping floor and ancillary equipment for feeding and drinking, with egg collection arrangements mounted on the front. In recent years there have been several detailed changes to cage design and construction to improve access for depopulation, production efficiency and enhance bird welfare. Mortality rates in caged birds are generally now very low.

    24. Large, modern units are usually highly mechanised with computerised controls for the environment, feeding, manure removal and egg collection. Blocks of cages can be as much as eight tiers high, although four to six tiers are common in this country. Most cages manufactured during the past ten years provide hens with 500cm²/bird in five bird colonies.

    25. Some manufacturers offer the option of a perch and/or an abrasive claw shortener on the baffle plate of their cages. Studies on enrichment of cages by the additional provision of nest sites and dust baths have given encouraging results on a small experimental scale. Larger scale experiments are underway at ADAS Gleadthorpe Poultry Research Centre and other research institutes in Europe.


    Aviaries
    26. These systems consist of several tiers of perforated platforms formed of wire or plastic mesh or timber slats, built into a laying house; the platforms are often interconnected by ladders or intermediate perches. The ground floor level is usually partially covered with litter. Nest boxes are provided at several levels and, in UK versions, feed and water are available on all platforms. In certain Swiss and Dutch versions, some of which have been imported into the UK, feed is only provided on the lower platforms, the top tier being regarded as a resting area. Most aviaries have manure collection and removal systems included beneath each tier.

    27. Although the EC Egg Marketing Regulations (see Appendix D) allow a maximum stocking density of 25 birds/m² of the ground floor area for barn eggs', we understand that most producers stock at a maximum of 15.5 birds/m² as recommended in FAWC's Report on the Welfare of Laying Hens in Colony Systems (1991). Stocking density on the total available surface area is much less, commonly between about 7-11 birds/m².

    Percheries
    28. These multi-level systems allow birds to occupy much of the volume of the building by the provision of perches (usually timber) throughout the space. Small perforated platforms are incorporated in some designs. Feed, water and nests are provided at all or most levels. The ground level may be a fully perforated floor, or partly littered. The birds jump or fly from one level to another and across from perching areas to nest boxes. In well designed percheries, fouling of birds below is minimised by careful siting of the perches in relation to each other.

    29. Stocking density is generally similar to that in aviaries. The total available surface includes the perches. The available equivalent "surface area" of a perch is generally calculated assuming that a hen on a 15cm length of perch occupies approximately 15cm in front of and behind that perch. An allocation of 15cm of perch length is therefore equivalent to 450cm² of surface area. Thus perches, if raised by at least 40cm to allow hens to pass underneath them, add to the available surface area of the house.
     
  3. LittleChickenRacingTeam

    LittleChickenRacingTeam On vacation

    Jan 11, 2007
    Ontario, CANADA
    Deep litter
    30. In this system, birds are kept on a single level of litter usually consisting of such materials as wood shavings, saw dust, chopped paper, straw, peat or sand. It is unusual for perches to be provided, except for nest box alighting rails. Feeders and drinkers, either mounted on stands on the floor or suspended from the roof, may serve as perching space.

    31. The maximum stocking density allowed under the EC Egg Marketing Regulations is 7 birds/m² and at this density management to maintain litter in a friable condition can be difficult in winter. In the UK, few laying hens are now kept on true deep litter systems except for breeding stock.

    Modified deep litter
    32. Many deep litter systems have been improved by the addition of a raised perforated platform. This does not usually increase the surface area but is often elevated and enclosed to form a manure collecting pit; one exception to this is the "roost raft", in which manure collection conveyers are fitted under the perforated floors so that birds can also use the littered area below.

    33. Under the EC Egg Marketing Regulations, if the stocking density in this system exceeds 7 birds/m², the eggs cannot be sold as from deep litter. A frequent arrangement is to have 53% perforated floor and 47% litter area in which case stocking density may be up to 11.7 birds/m² if the eggs are sold as from perchery (barn) systems.

    Free range
    34. The housing system may be aviary, perchery or deep litter, as described earlier, with the essential addition that the birds must be provided with continuous daytime access to land mainly covered with vegetation. Sleeping, nesting, feeding and watering are generally within the building; litter is provided either inside or, increasingly, under a covered area outside. Outside shelter and shade are also recommended. Access to the outside is generally via popholes; these have greatly increased in size in recent years in order to encourage greater numbers of birds to venture out. This means that the houses are colder during the day time in winter.

    35. Stocking density within the building depends on the housing system. Stocking density on the associated land area must not exceed 1,000 birds/ha for the eggs to be described as free range under the current EC Egg Marketing Regulations. Up to 4,000 birds/ha is allowable if the eggs are described as "semi-intensive". As far as is known there are none of these "semi-intensive" units in the UK but eggs may be imported from other countries where this system is widely in use.
     
  4. LittleChickenRacingTeam

    LittleChickenRacingTeam On vacation

    Jan 11, 2007
    Ontario, CANADA
    PART IV: MAIN WELFARE ISSUES

    Introduction
    36. In this section we discuss some of the main welfare issues which relate to birds in all systems. Our recommendations for specific systems follow in Part V.

    37. A detailed review of welfare issues, with references to scientific publications, was provided by the European Commission's Scientific Veterinary Committee in its Report on the Welfare of Laying Hens in October 1996. This followed an earlier report published in 1992. We have carefully studied both reports.

    38. In evaluating the welfare of laying hens, FAWC has taken into account the views of organisations and individuals with knowledge and experience of commercial production as well as the results of scientific research. It has not always been easy to reconcile information derived from different sources. Scientific research is good at isolating specific effects stemming from particular causes but may be less effective in helping us understand the complex interrelationship between the various parameters affecting commercial production. Behavioural science is good at answering some types of question (e.g. are hens motivated to perform particular types of behaviour?) but less effective at others (e.g. how much does a hen suffer when deprived of a resource?). During our review we found ourselves repeatedly faced with conflicting answers to questions such as: is it better for the welfare of hens for them to have a dust bath if they also have to endure high atmospheric dust levels with possible health effects?

    39. Most of the systems commonly used to keep hens in this country can provide substantial parts of the Five Freedoms set out in Part I but no one system meets all of the criteria. Remembering that the Five Freedoms are ideals rather than minimum standards, failure to fulfil them in total does not mean that support for any system should be withdrawn. However, we believe that every effort should be made to keep hens in accordance with these broad principles and our approach required us to maintain a balance between the various welfare advantages and disadvantages of each system.

    Freedom from hunger and thirst

    Feeding and nutrition

    40. It is a requirement of the Welfare of Livestock Regulations 1994 to provide adequate feed and water. The Regulations state that hens must be fed in sufficient quantity to maintain them in good health and to satisfy their nutritional needs. Hens must also have access to an adequate supply of fresh drinking water at all times. All present systems can provide these fundamental requirements when operated to proper standards.


    Feeding and nutrition
    41. Most studies on nutrition have been linked to production. It has been suggested that lack of animal protein in the diet predisposes the flock to injurious pecking leading to cannibalism and death; plumage quality is also adversely affected. This effect has recently been confirmed by experiment although the precise protein fraction that is apparently lacking has not been identified. It is important, therefore, that any possibility of a nutritional effect on injurious behaviour must be clarified if progress is to be made in reducing the problem by other means. We are aware that certain other fractions of diets (e.g. wheat) normally fed to laying hens may alter injurious behaviour. Hens in the natural environment will eat soluble and insoluble grit although it is not clear whether there is frustration if this is absent.


    Recommendation
    42. We recommend further research work to identify and quantify the factors in animal protein responsible for reducing injurious behaviour in laying hens.

    43. The feeding to poultry of products derived from chicken meat and bones should be avoided. This will minimise the possibility of disease transmission through the feed.

    Freedom from discomfort

    Temperature
    Light
    Dust and gases

    44. Hens must be provided with acceptable environmental conditions in which to live. The various systems described earlier offer these in different measures. If managed well, most can minimise environmental discomfort. The important environmental factors include temperature, climate, ventilation, dust and gas levels, litter quality and light levels.


    Temperature
    45. Hens are most biologically energy efficient at temperatures well above those normally experienced outdoors in the UK. In intensive houses in this country they are usually kept within the range 18C to 24C. This does not necessarily mean that they are uncomfortable at temperatures outside this range. Hens with access to feed available ad libitum can withstand a very wide range of temperatures.

    46. In cool conditions good insulation is provided by clean, dry feathers, unruffled by outdoor wind or indoor draughts. Free range birds benefit from shelter from wind and rain and need access to clean pasture which will not dirty the plumage. Birds in both intensive and extensive systems benefit from management conducive to the maintenance of good plumage quality.

    47. Hens suffer discomfort at temperatures high enough to cause heat stress, as indicated by deep and prolonged panting; this should be avoided. The temperature above which such panting occurs varies with several factors including body weight, standard of feather cover, acclimatisation, stocking density, air speed, humidity, radiant environment, level of performance and breed. The degree of discomfort during severe panting is likely to vary, in particular, with humidity. In both intensive and extensive systems hens benefit from protection from hot sun.


    Light
    48. Current practice, which does not appear to cause welfare problems, usually incorporates the use of "daylengths" within the range of 8 to 17 hours of light per day but the intensity, colour and source of light required for optimum hen welfare are uncertain. Whilst it appears that the egg production of modern strains of hen may be less sensitive to low light intensity than that of earlier stocks, low intensities may be insufficient for normal behavioural expression, inspection and good hen welfare. It is important that houses have light levels sufficient to allow birds to see and be seen. It is well established that the optimum working of all visual systems depends upon a certain minimum level of light. High intensities and uneven light intensity within a building are undesirable because they may increase the risk of injurious pecking. In multi-level systems there is an unavoidable variation in light intensity between levels. There is a need for a balance between providing sufficient light at lower levels and avoiding excessive light intensity at levels closest to the light source which might cause injurious behaviour. In battery cage systems, industry practice restricts light intensity at any feed trough level to a maximum of about 35 lux yet still achieves 5 lux at the darkest feed trough level.


    Recommendations
    49. In battery cage and multi-level systems, light intensity should be at least 5 lux, and preferably not less than 10 lux, measured at any feed trough level; in other systems, light intensity in the perching, walking and feeding areas should be at least 10 lux measured at bird eye height.

    50. Research is required into the physiological and behavioural responses in hens at different light intensities and wavelengths with particular reference to the incidence of injurious pecking. More information is required to determine the minimum light levels required for hens to perform normal investigative behaviour and how visual acuity is affected by lighting conditions.


    Dust and gases
    51. Hens require a supply of fresh air, either by access to the outdoor environment or by provision of ventilation. In indoor systems, the latter is normally specified and designed to provide sufficient oxygen and adequately dilute and disperse metabolic heat, moisture, carbon dioxide, dust, ammonia and odour. Minimising concentrations of dust and ammonia is important to both hens and to the people who care for them. Concentrations of dust vary widely within and across systems but they are generally highest in litter based systems, though litter is not the only source of dust. High levels of ammonia tend to occur in systems where undried manure accumulates within the house. High concentrations of dust and ammonia are respiratory irritants, which increase the risk of respiratory diseases in hens.


    Freedom from pain, injury and disease

    Disease
    Parasites
    Availability of veterinary medicines
    Bone weakness and damage
    Beak trimming and injurious pecking
    Other mutilations

    52. Hens must be maintained in good health to ensure good welfare.

    53. In all systems, equipment should be designed, sited and installed so as to minimise the risk of birds becoming injured. A very important consideration in relation to pain is beak trimming which is used extensivelyparticularly in alternative systems to limit injurious feather pecking and cannibalism (see section on beak trimming and injurious pecking, paragraphs 62-74).


    Disease
    54. In general, the infectious diseases of laying hens are well controlled by vaccination. Routine vaccination is used for Marek's disease, Newcastle disease, infectious bronchitis, infectious bursal disease, avian rhinotracheitis and infectious avian encephalomyelitis. Sometimes egg drop syndrome vaccine is used and more commonly now vaccination for infectious laryngotracheitis is required. With routine use of vaccines and good husbandry the health of layers is generally good. Mortality from disease tends to be lower in well designed and managed cage systems tends to be lower than in extensive non-cage systems. In free range systems birds may be exposed to organisms carried by free flying birds such as pasteurella, salmonella and avian tuberculosis.


    Parasites
    55. Mite control is becoming more of a problem in most systems and regular spraying of equipment is needed while the birds are in situ. The irritation caused by these parasites can be severe if they are not controlled. There are very few licensed products for mite control; this is a significant welfare issue as resistance to these compounds appears to be developing.

    56. Exposure to litter and pasture mean that control of coccidiosis and worms is essential. Routine treatment for endoparasites, as well as good litter and land management, are required. There is only one fully authorised product (active ingredient flubendazol) for poultry available for treatment of endoparasites but the requirement to withdraw eggs from sale during and after treatment means that it is expensive to use for birds in lay in the UK. The welfare of the birds is undoubtedly worse if they are not treated and the Government should consider ways of ensuring that suitable products are available for use on poultry.


    Availability of veterinary medicines
    57. We believe that hens with clinical signs of disease should not have treatment withheld. It is essential that the welfare, and particularly the health, of birds in the UK is not adversely affected by limitations on the availability of medicines which are known to be effective and do not pose a food safety hazard.


    Recommendations
    58. We urge the Government to take action to ensure that the welfare of the UK flock is not disadvantaged by formalities which inhibit the availability of effective medicines.

    59. Government should pursue with its EU counterparts improved harmonisation of registration procedures to ensure uniformity and increase the range of medicines available.


    Bone weakness and damage
    60. Breakage of bones (mainly wings, legs and keel) is commonly a problem in the laying hen. There is evidence which shows that significant numbers of hens have bones broken in the process of depopulating the laying accommodation. Skeletal weakness, which contributes to these fractures, is exacerbated by high levels of egg production. Evidence has demonstrated that bone strength varies with strain of hens and also according to the rearing systems. There is clear evidence that lack of exercise of birds in conventional cages causes poor bone strength. On the other hand, hens which have more exercise, changing levels from floor to raised perches, tend to have better foot condition and greater bone strength but may still suffer some damage by flying into furniture and fittings. Progress has been made in improving the design of cage fronts to make access better for depopulation thus reducing bone breakage. Good design of housing and equipment in all systems can help to prevent injuries, for example, when birds fall between different levels or fly into furniture. We believe that hens should have the opportunity for sufficient exercise to develop and maintain sufficient bone strength.


    Recommendation
    61. We recommend that steps should be taken to ensure that there is a significant reduction in the occurrence and severity of bone damage. We wish to see continuing improvements to the design of facilities for hens. We urge the industry, with FAWC involvement, to establish levels of bone weakness problems and the extent of bone damage by examination of bird carcasses at the slaughterhouse; and to demonstrate improvements over a five year period. FAWC will keep the matter under review.


    Beak trimming and injurious pecking
    62. We consider that the mutilation of all livestock is undesirable and continues to regard beak trimming as a major welfare insult. We do, however, recognise that in some systems such procedures may currently be necessary. Where the operation is performed correctly, it can help to avoid worse problems. Nonetheless, the ultimate aim should be the avoidance of beak trimming.

    63. The avoidance of injurious pecking is a major difficulty and research workers and the poultry industry must continue to address the problems of feather pecking and cannibalism to find satisfactory solutions. The causes do not appear to be fully understood and it is difficult to determine why a flock in which such pecking does not occur may be followed by one, kept in the same conditions, in which injurious pecking may be prevalent. We would like to see liaison between research organisations, the industry and Government in the belief that the combined approach is most likely to achieve progress.

    64. FAWC urges the industry to seek a practicable and workable solution to the problem of feather pecking and cannibalism without the need for beak trimming. We ask the egg industry to set up, in consultation with FAWC, a survey of beak trimming in the UK flock. This would allow us to determine the extent of the problem and set a target for improvement.

    65. FAWC will review the issue of feather pecking, cannibalism and beak trimming in 5 years from the publication of this report. In the absence of adequate progress, it may be necessary for us to recommend statutory controls.

    66. Throughout the literature, there is evidence of differences between strains of hens in relation to a wide range of behaviour patterns. Indeed, different strains of hen demonstrate different levels of injurious behaviour. This is an area for research which should particularly consider the relationship between strain of bird, colony size, stocking density, house environment and need for beak trimming We understand that selection for traits which have an effect on welfare , such as injurious pecking behaviour, is currently at an early stage but there is reason to believe that this approach may result in improved welfare.

    67. We are greatly concerned to hear of an increase over recent years in the incidence of beak trimming of hens in battery cages. This increase may be associated with genetic change in the laying flock. It may also be due to the fact that many hatcheries routinely beak trim since birds may be destined for any system. It seems possible that rather than exploiting genetic variation in feather pecking and cannibalism to reduce welfare problems, the breeding companies may have inadvertently made the situation worse. Evidence from the USA that genetic selection can significantly and substantially reduce feather pecking and cannibalism is encouraging. There appears to be great potential for genetic selection to overcome, either partly or wholly, the problem of feather pecking and cannibalism and hence the need for beak trimming. We would like to see evidence of a concerted effort by the egg industry and retailers to ensure that the laying hen breeding companies reduce the genetic tendency of the hen to injurious feather pecking and cannibalism.

    68. In practice, there are various degrees of severity of beak trimming but all trimming must be carried out within the law which states that not more than one third of the upper and lower beak may be removed. Beaks of laying hens are also trimmed when problems occur later in life. The literature demonstrates quite clearly that beak trimming of older birds causes acute pain at the time of the operation and also, in the longer term, that hens suffer chronic pain resulting from neuromas. Recent evidence indicates that beak trimming at under 10 days of age, results in little long term pain and practical experience in industry suggests that beak trimming at this age will reduce injurious feather pecking and cannibalism in later life. We see the need for more work on beak trimming of birds at a young age to determine optimal age and best technique and the long term effects of this treatment in relation to injurious feather pecking and cannibalism.


    Recommendations
    69. We consider that beak trimming is a most undesirable mutilation which should be avoided if at all possible and only used if essential to prevent worse welfare problems of injurious feather pecking and cannibalism.

    70. We recommend that the egg production industry sets up a survey of the incidence of beak trimming of laying birds in all systems in the UK. FAWC will keep the matter under review.

    71. We believe that the prevention of injurious feather pecking and cannibalism is a most important area for research and development and we are clear that the poultry industry and scientists must work together to solve the problem. This should include studies using relatively large flock sizes and under a range of practical conditions which can be carefully defined in order to derive workable guidelines.

    72. In addition, all breeding companies should be strongly encouraged by the laying hen industry and Government to pursue genetic selection for birds which display less injurious behaviour.

    73. We recommend that, if beak trimming is essential, it should be carried out at up to 10 days of age (ideally 7-10 days of age which is currently best practice in the UK industry). Neither trimming nor re-trimming of older birds should be carried out other than under the recommendation of a veterinarian and only in order to avoid a worse welfare problem, e.g. caused by an outbreak of cannibalism.

    74. More research into the pain, both immediate and chronic, associated with beak trimming of young (less than 10 day old) chicks is required. There is a need to assess the longer term effects of various methods of beak trimming on pecking behaviour patterns and whether beaks that re-grow are used for injurious feather pecking and cannibalism in a similar way to untrimmed beaks.


    Other mutilations
    75. The law already prohibits the fitting of blinkers by a method involving the penetration or other mutilation of the nasal septum. FAWC believes that all forms of devices fitted to hens' heads (such as spectacles, contact lenses and nasal bits) are detrimental to welfare and should be prohibited.
     
  5. LittleChickenRacingTeam

    LittleChickenRacingTeam On vacation

    Jan 11, 2007
    Ontario, CANADA
    Freedom to express normal behaviour

    Space allowances
    Group size
    Behavioural activities

    76. Conditions should be provided in which the birds can show those behaviours which are important to them. Systems providing an enriched and varied environment offer more scope for hens to express normal behaviour and our problem has been how to assess the significance of restrictions to this freedom experienced by birds in certain systems. We have seen evidence which suggests that nesting, foraging, dust bathing, perching and other activities are all of importance. Opportunity to express these behaviours is largely prevented in certain systems, yet it is clearly possible for hens to survive and perform well, albeit with some restriction or modification of patterns of behaviour.


    Space allowances
    77. Any definition of space allowances must include both horizontal surface area and height, both of which affect bird behaviour. The scientific literature provides relatively little information on the use of space by hens. There is a need for a clearer understanding of how hens share space and the effect of this on their individual space requirements, and for more information upon the effects of group sizes on hen behaviour and their use of space. Whenever possible, they should have space sufficient to allow them to walk from one resource to another, investigate their surroundings, flap their wings and have safe access to perches.


    Recommendation
    78. Further research, under a range of conditions which reflect practice, is required to clarify understanding of the space requirements of hens which can be translated into more precise and practical recommendations.


    Group size
    79. It is difficult to find clear experimental evidence to support an optimum size for groups of laying hens. Over a wide range of conditions, it appears that large group sizes may be detrimental in respect of a number of behavioural factors including: injurious feather pecking and cannibalism, fearfulness, hysteria and mortality.


    Behavioural activities
    80. We have reviewed the extensive evidence about normal behaviour patterns of hens when offered uninhibited opportunities. Whilst we would like to see all hens have the opportunity to exhibit the widest possible range of behaviour patterns, we find it difficult to quantify the degree of frustration or indeed suffering experienced by birds restricted by lack of space or provision of any particular facilities. The evidence suggests that the behavioural activities which are most important are nesting, perching and using litter for scratching, pecking and dust bathing.


    Nesting
    81. Hens are strongly motivated to nest and may be frustrated if deprived of the opportunity to perform pre-nesting behaviour and to lay in a nest. It has been suggested to us that hens have difficulty in dealing with this deprivation. In the FAWC Assessment of Egg Production Systems (1986), it was stated that the "Inability to perform normal pre-laying behaviour is generally assessed as one of the most important problems for the welfare of hens in cages". In our current appraisal, scientific opinion has concurred with this statement. On the other hand, the industry suggests that battery hens can cope with the problem as evidenced by their productivity.


    Recommendation
    82. We recommend that further research be carried out to determine what a hen perceives as a nest and to define the attributes of such a nest to aid practical developments which would suit a range of systems.


    Perching
    83. In their natural surroundings, hens make considerable use of perches, particularly to roost at night. Hens are strongly motivated to perch and we are aware of benefits to the birds in reducing foot problems and improving bone strength. Ideally, therefore, hens should be provided with a perch. We believe that perching opportunities are important to the hen but we remain uncertain about how much frustration and suffering is caused by deprivation.


    Using litter
    84. Where a friable litter substrate is provided, it is intensively used by hens for scratching, dust bathing and pecking. There is experimental evidence to show that hens, when given the choice, strongly prefer litter to a wire mesh floor. Hens which are deprived of litter may have a greater tendency towards injurious pecking. We are not clear how difficult it is for hens to cope without litter but ideally we feel that hens should have daily access to litter in order to dust bathe and forage.

    Freedom from fear and distress

    Predation

    85. Birds may display fear in response to different types of stimuli in all systems. For birds exposed to a relatively unvarying indoor environment, any sudden visual or auditory stimulus may be frightening. The almost universal practice of knocking on the door or speaking before entering a hen house indicates the likelihood of panic reaction that the unexpected appearance of a person might induce in a flock. Particularly in colony houses, such panic reactions can lead to injury and, in extreme cases, suffocation if large numbers of hens rush to the far end of a building or pen in alarm. In the more varied outdoor environment, hens tend to display different types of fear reaction. Wild birds flying overhead may induce a specific predator avoidance reaction, involving high levels of fear. Low level balloon flights or aircraft may cause similar reactions. Regular observation and good management are particularly important when birds are allowed to range and the hens should be returned to the house at dusk and closed in the house for the night.

    86. Distress, pain and suffering will inevitably result from outbreaks of injurious feather pecking or cannibalism.


    Predation
    87. Protection from predators is essential. It is well established that predators, and also fear of predation, are important elements in the life of a hen particularly in the more extensive systems. Predators cause welfare problems both directly, causing injury and death and indirectly, by inducing fear.


    Recommendation
    88. Where hens are kept extensively and may be free to range it is important to provide some overhead shelter and to ensure that they are protected from predators by day and confined in the building during the hours of darkness


    Training
    89. Training of people who care for hens is essential. Some individuals are inherently much better stockpeople than others, but it is important that training is provided, preferably resulting in a recognised certificate of competence. As in all areas of stockmanship, the essential need is for good observational powers and attention to detail, most particularly when the stockperson is responsible for large numbers of hens. Stockmanship is a most important element in determining the welfare of laying hens in any system. Stockpeople should be aware of the relevant welfare codes and of the correct operation of the mechanical systems which assist in maintaining health and welfare. The regular inspection of birds and equipment requires conscientious repetitive action on the part of the stockperson.


    Recommendation
    90. Those responsible for the management of the farm should ensure that the hens are cared for by sufficient, well-motivated, competent, properly trained stockpeople. Any contract or casual labour used in periods of increased workload should be trained and competent in the relevant activity. Producers, and producer organisations, should take steps to ensure that standards of formal training are monitored.

    Inspection
    91. The Welfare of Livestock Regulations 1994 require that laying hens shall be inspected thoroughly at least once per day. We have been advised that it is common industry practice to interpret this inspection requirement as a house or system inspection. The code of recommendations for the welfare of domestic fowls (1987) states that "the size of a unit should not be increased nor should a unit be set up unless it is reasonably certain that the stockman in charge will be able to safeguard the welfare of the individual bird".

    92. FAWC is concerned that the inspection of hens in the upper and bottom rows of conventional cage systems often cannot readily be carried out on a daily basis with sufficient rigour for illness or injury of individual birds to be detected. As cage systems have developed, it has become increasingly common for stacks to be from 5-8 tiers high in large battery units. In this situation the need for daily inspection is made difficult, particularly at bottom level and for all hens above head height of the stockperson. Attention must be paid to improvement of access arrangements to make it possible for flocks to be inspected easily and regularly, given the fact that the ratio of birds per stockperson has reached very high levels (often in excess of 25,000 caged birds per person). In colony house systems such as percheries and aviaries with a range of internal house furniture, there are problems of regular inspection of hens which have to be solved if the relevant legislation and welfare code requirements are to be observed.


    Recommendation
    93. The law requires hens to be inspected at least daily. This inspection should be sufficiently thorough to detect illness and injury of individual hens and we believe that inspection should take place at least twice a day.
     
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    LittleChickenRacingTeam On vacation

    Jan 11, 2007
    Ontario, CANADA
    PART V: REVIEW OF UK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS

    Introduction
    94. This section of the report reviews how successfully the various systems for housing laying hens in use today provide for their welfare requirements. Each section starts with a brief outline of the system; more detailed descriptions are provided in Part III.


    Conventional battery cages
    95. Laying cages are designed to house small groups of hens (usually less than 10). The cages have perforated sloping floors (through which manure passes), feed troughs and drinkers, and are arranged in rows and tiers within a building which usually provides a controlled environment.

    96. Council Directive 88/166/EEC, laying down minimum standards for the protection of laying hens in battery cages, prescribes a minimum space allowance of 450cm²/hen. Research work has shown that this restricts or prevents some behaviour patterns. It has been demonstrated that 600cm²/hen is better since this provides the hens with space to perform a wider range of their normal behaviour patterns; they can also continue to share the space of other birds in the cage. In 1989 FAWC wrote to the European Commission calling for an early review of the Directive and stating that it considered the prescribed space allowance of 450cm²/hen was inadequate. We recommended then that space allowances in cages should be increased to a minimum of 600cm²/hen. In the introduction to the Government code of recommendations for the welfare of domestic fowls (1987), GB Agriculture Ministers stated that 600 cm² was more appropriate in welfare terms and indicated their commitment to seek improvements when the EC Directive was reviewed. No change has yet been introduced.

    97. In its recent review of the available evidence, the Scientific Veterinary Committee concluded that behaviours requiring much space are less frequent in cages than in other systems. The SVC report went on to state that because of its small size and barrenness, the battery cage as used at present has inherent severe disadvantages for the welfare of hens. There are scientific studies which have found that hens use more than 450cm² when performing certain normal behaviours. For example, it has been shown that hens use between 1000 and 2000cm² when turning, wing flapping and preening. On the other hand, studies have demonstrated that providing space at 800-1200cm²/hen in cages may increase levels of aggression. We believe that the advice given by FAWC in 1989 was correct: space allowance should be raised to a minimum of 600cm²/hen.

    Recommendation
    98. FAWC believes strongly that conventional cages with a minimum space allowance of 450cm²/hen, as prescribed in the present EC Directive (88/166/EEC), are unacceptable and that more space must be provided as a matter of urgency. We recommend that the Directive should be amended immediately to require a minimum space allowance in all battery cages of 600cm²/hen within five years and with immediate effect in new installations. Uniform and effective implementation and enforcement of the amended Directive are essential throughout the EU; imports of eggs from third countries should be subject to the same conditions.

    99. Whilst newly installed facilities should incorporate this increase immediately,in the very near future we recognise that a phasing out periodwill may be required for existing systems. However, many cages currently measure 50cm x 50cm giving an area of 2500cm², normally for five birds. In such cages the space per bird could be increased to 625cm² if one bird was removeded. We believe that this change could take place across the EU forthwith as regulations in some other countries in the EU already prescribe a minimum greater than the 450cm² in the current Directive. An early move towards a minimum of 600cm²/bird is, therefore, a realistic proposition.

    100. An increase in space allowance to a minimum of 600cm² per hen represents a 33% rise from the present space requirement. Whatever the EU Agriculture Ministers decide, we urge them to seek an immediate change to the EC Directive requirements for space and suggest that they consider how the industry should be involved in and informed about future long-term plans for continuing welfare improvements.

    101. Battery cage summary assessment:

    Pros:

    Easy to control environment; e.g. temperature, feed and water, light level and period all easily controlled throughout the year.
    Aggression suppressed by space restriction.
    Small colony size.
    Good disease control with birds separated from their droppings.
    Risk from endo and ectoparasites is low and easily controlled.
    Beak trimming is not necessary in all cases.
    No predation problems.
    Cons:

    Prevention or modification of certain normal behaviours due to lack of space and facilities.
    Unable to escape aggression from other birds if this occurs.
    Cage structure may cause feather damage by abrasion and foot problems caused by the (sloping) wire floor.
    Confinement leads to weak bones and an increased risk of breakages at depopulation.
    Inspection difficulties, particularly the top and bottom tiers.
    102. Battery cages which do not provide a nest box, perch or litter arguably cause hens frustration and suffering. It may be that battery cages in their present form should be phased out throughout the EU if hens can be practically provided with greater space, nests, perches and possibly scratching, foraging and dust bathing facilities in other systems without increasing injurious pecking. FAWC is of the opinion that the use of conventional battery cages should be phased out in the long term with the following provisos which should be energetically pursued:

    The UK industry must be protected from unfair competition from elsewhere within the EU; phasing out throughout the EU must take place simultaneously.
    Imports of shell eggs and egg products into the EU must be banned from those countries in which conventional battery cages are still used. GATT/WTO arrangements should not be allowed to prevent these measures and, if necessary, the UK Government should seek an amendment to the agreement in order to protect the welfare of animals.
    There are signs that genetic selection for reduced injurious pecking behaviour may remove an obstacle to the widespread use of non-cage systems. The phasing out of battery cages should not be effected until after the elimination, or successful control, of injurious pecking and cannibalism through genetic progress or improvements to management technique.



    Enriched cages
    103. Opinion differs regarding the value of potential benefits to bird welfare arising from the enrichment of cages. There is a view that whilst non-cage alternatives to battery systems may, in the long-term, be the better way forward from the viewpoint of the birds' welfare, there is an urgent need for substantial effort to be put into improving (enriching) cages.

    104. Another commonly held view is that an enriched battery cage is nonetheless a cage and as such is still unacceptable. It is argued that in this situation, enrichment may make little or no difference to public perception. However, public perception has not stopped a majority of consumers purchasing eggs from conventional battery systems. These eggs continue to sell, perhaps because of their lower cost in comparison with eggs from other systems. For the majority of consumers, the low cost is not perceived as coming at the expense of the birds welfare.

    105. There have been detailed studies on cage enrichment. For example, experimental work with nests suggests that the presence of loose nesting material is of importance but other data indicate that a man made, pre-formed nest is acceptable. Whilst we can see benefits from some types of enrichment, further information is required about the relative importance of each of the various facilities and their commercial and practical viability. UK Agriculture Departments are therefore urged to continue to monitor closely the results of the developments in cage enrichment research and development programmes. We are not aware of any fully enriched systems being used commercially in this country.

    106. The development of enriched cages on a commercial scale would lead to higher egg production costs than systems which allow each hen 450cm² of space. However, if it is accepted that the minimum space requirement in conventional cages should be increased to at least 600cm²/hen, then the cost difference will be less. FAWC is of the opinion that cage enrichment offers the possibility of improved hen welfare provided acceptable systems can be introduced practically.


    Recommendations
    107. We recommend that applied and carefully targeted research on the space and facilities required by hens in enriched cages should be continued and developed on a commercial scale. Measures must be made of the effect of space and facilities on both behaviour and production. This should take account of the quality of the environment, as it may be better for a hen to have less space in an enriched environment than more space in a barren cage where increased injurious pecking behaviour may occur resulting in the need to beak trim.

    108. We have seen perches in battery cages and we know of evidence to suggest improved bone strength, although possibly at the expense of increased egg breakages. This modification could be readily made in cages at 600cm²/hen. If perches are incorporated they should provide 12cm of perch length per bird to allow all birds to perch at the same time. Where perches are provided, the height of the cage should be sufficient for the birds to be able to perch comfortably.

    Alternatives to conventional and enriched cage systems
    Nest boxes
    Perching space
    Feed and water supplies
    Flock or colony size
    Deep litter
    Perchery and aviary systems
    Free range systems
    109. These systems include deep litter, perchery, aviary and free range. They provide various degrees of freedom of movement and facilities to encourage normal behaviours but at the cost of large group sizes and the increased likelihood of injurious pecking and cannibalism.

    110. In 1991 the Council published its Report on the Welfare of Laying Hens in Colony Systems. We stand by the majority of recommendations in that report. Nonetheless, we believe that the industry has developed and improved systems since then and we wish to update a small number of the recommendations on the basis of recent information about best industry practice.

    Recommendation
    111. We urge the Government to pursue implementation of recommendations made in the Report on the Welfare of Hens in Colony Systems (1991) and accepted in the Government response for implementation on an EU basis (some of these are modified in the following paragraphs). The forthcoming EU review offers an ideal opportunity to do this.

    Nest boxes
    112. Sufficient individual or communal nest boxes should be provided in colony systems to allow daily access for all hens.

    Recommendation
    113. Best practice within the industry would suggest that individual nest boxes should be provided at a rate of at least one for every five or six hens and that communal nest boxes should be provided at a maximum rate of 120 birds/m² of nest box area, dependent on well designed nest boxes and the appropriate strain of bird.

    Perching space
    114. In the various non-cage systems currently in use, hens need 15cm of perch length (dependent on their size and the system) in order that all birds may perch at the same time. More perch length is required in non-cage systems than in enriched battery cages because of increased competition.

    Recommendation
    115. We recommend a minimum perching allocation of 15cm length per hen in non-cage systems, provided that the system design allows easy perch access.

    Feed and water supplies
    116. We continue to stress the need for sufficient feeders and drinkers to enable all hens to obtain adequate feed and water and so meet the requirements of the Welfare of Livestock Regulations 1994.

    Recommendations
    117. We accept industry best practice and recommend allowing a maximum of 100 hens per standard bell-type drinker or 10 birds per nipple or cup drinker.

    118. We re-iterate our earlier recommendation for a minimum provision of 10cm of linear feed trough length per hen (i.e. 5cm each side). We also now recommend at least 4cm per hen of the perimeter when circular feeders are used.

    Flock or colony size
    119. We believed in 1991 that a flock size of a maximum of 2000 was realistic. This figure was not accepted then by Government and in 1997 we have no clearer evidence of what the figure should be. There is commercial experience to suggest that larger group sizes can operate satisfactorily.

    Recommendation
    120. Research is needed to establish optimum flock sizes for laying hens.

    Deep litter
    121. These are flock systems in which the hens are confined to a building with access to an area littered with material such as wood shavings or straw. A raised, perforated floor is often incorporated. The accommodation is usually in a building with a controlled environment. The EC Egg Marketing Regulations state that the maximum stocking density should be 7 birds/m². This was the figure recommended in our 1991 Report.

    122. Deep litter summary assessment:

    Pros:

    Varied physical environment and an opportunity to express a wide range of behaviours.
    No exposure to predators.
    Freedom to move within the house.
    Provision of nest boxes, perches and dust bathing facilities is relatively easy.
    Easier to inspect birds than in cage systems.
    Improved bone strength due to increased activity.
    Can be combined with access to range.
    Light level and period easily controlled throughout the year.
    Cons:

    Beak trimming may be required.
    Large colony size increases risk of social disharmony.
    If feather pecking or cannibalism occur, control may be difficult.
    Increased risk of endoparasites and ectoparasites due to access to droppings.
    Disinfection and disinfestation may be difficult following depopulation.
    Stocking density is sometimes insufficient to achieve optimum temperature range under cold ambient conditions.
    Management of litter may be difficult during winter months.
    Perchery and aviary systems
    123. These are usually floor based with tiers of floors or perches at several levels, sometimes with an area of litter on the floor. Feed, water and nesting accommodation are located at more than one level. The systems are normally in controlled environment buildings.

    124. The Report on the Welfare of Laying Hens in Colony Systems (1991) recommended that hens in perchery or aviary systems should be stocked at no more than 15.5 hens/m². This has subsequently become industry practice and appears to work well.

    125. Perchery and aviary systems summary assessment:

    Pros: As for deep litter systems plus;

    Provision of perches and other facilities at different heights which allow a greater use of space.
    Higher stocking densities make temperature control easier in cold weather.
    Birds can escape aggression by moving within the house.
    Cons: As for deep litter systems plus;

    Furniture structures in the house may impede observation and inspection.
    Hens can be injured by falling between levels or flying into furniture.
    Birds can become soiled from above unless manure belts are provided or perches are placed carefully.
    Difficult to depopulate.
    High risk of injurious feather pecking and cannibalism, thus beak trimming is often necessary.
    Free range systems
    126. Hens can be housed on deep litter or in perchery or aviary systems and the EC Egg Marketing Regulations state they must further be provided with continuous day time access to land mainly covered with vegetation.

    127. Free range summary assessment:

    Pros: As for perchery and aviary systems plus;

    Freedom to access the range area and thus express a wide behavioural repertoire.
    Opportunity to graze on vegetation and to augment and vary diet.
    Opportunity to dust bath in soil.
    Cons: As for perchery and aviary systems plus;

    Predation or fear of predation may be a problem.
    When outside, birds may suffer discomfort due to climatic extremes.
    Large pop holes can adversely affect environmental conditions within the house.
    Disease risk due to access to droppings and contact with wild birds.
    Beak trimming is essential because of group sizes and high levels of natural light.
    Pasture management is an additional requirement.
    Recommendations
    128. For free range hens, we recommend that the maximum stocking density of 1000 birds per hectare is maintained. We agree with industry practice that a maximum distance of 350 m from the poultry building should be allowed for the purpose of calculating the total number of birds that may be kept in an enclosure.

    129. It is important to establish a system of rotation of grazing or house movement in order to prevent poaching and build up of disease.
     
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    LittleChickenRacingTeam On vacation

    Jan 11, 2007
    Ontario, CANADA
    PART VI: OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS

    Consumer issues
    130. Many consumers find battery cages less acceptable than other systems, yet most are not sufficiently concerned to purchase eggs produced more expensively in non-cage systems. This may also be partly because current labelling is not always clear. For example, many people believe that "fresh" eggs are from hens kept in extensive conditions. We consider, therefore, that it is important that consumers are provided with clear information about the system of production to enable them to make informed choices. If there was a ground-swell of consistent public demand for change, then both the producers and the retailers might move rapidly towards alternatives to the conventional cage system but presently this movement is relatively slow.

    131. The need for fair competition throughout the EU and with third countries is a major concern. Many producers have stated that they would be willing to introduce phased changes to systems provided these standards also applied to their competitors in other countries and that the rules were fully enforced. We believe that there is potential for welfare improvements to existing systems although these are likely to increase both production and capital investment costs . This increased cost could be covered if retailers paid the producers more for the eggs. A small increase in price on the supermarket shelf might not be unwelcome to many consumers if animal welfare could be demonstrated to be improved as a consequence. Furthermore, this could indicate a commitment to improved hen welfare by both the producers and the retailers. However, irrespective of any moral argument, the majority of consumers at present seem to prefer the cheaper cage produced eggs to the more expensive free range ones.

    132. The EC Egg Marketing Regulations permit shell eggs to be labelled according to their system of production as: free range eggs, semi-intensive eggs, deep litter eggs, perchery (barn) eggs and eggs from caged hens. These are optional terms but if eggs are sold under any of the terms mentioned then they must be produced in systems which meet criteria laid down in the Egg Marketing Regulations. The current practice of many, although not all, retailers is to label eggs produced from non-cage systems with Special Marketing Terms ("Free Range", "Deep Litter" and "Perchery (Barn) Eggs") but not eggs from caged hens.


    Recommendation
    133. We recommend that it should be compulsory for eggs to be labelled according to their system of production.

    134. A problem which has been drawn to our attention is that free range and perchery (barn) eggs are often not labelled as such and are sold as ordinary eggs because they are of small size or because of temporary drops in demand for free range or perchery (barn) eggs. If battery cage eggs are to be compulsorily labelled as eggs from caged systems, then this would prevent free range or perchery (barn) eggs from being sold in pack marked eggs from caged systems. This would impose a significant financial penalty upon these producers which might, in turn, force more producers back to cage production.


    Recommendation
    135. We recommend that packs of mixed eggs should be labelled as "may contain eggs from hens in any production system". This description should only be used on mixed packs.


    Environmental issues
    136. Another issue, more peripheral to bird welfare, relates to pollution controls. Should it be necessary to build additional houses for birds, the problems of obtaining planning permission and the possibility of pollution control difficulties, particularly in nitrate sensitive zones, may be a relevant factor. This may mean that new, large-scale livestock production would have to be moved progressively from these latter areas so might discourage the development of new facilities.

    137. We urge planning authorities to take account of animal welfare considerations when reaching decisions. We have been told by some farmers of free range hens that planners may require hen houses to be positioned close to the perimeter of fields making them less visible to passers by. This does nothing for hen welfare and ideally the house should be towards the centre of the field to aid rotation, etc. The planning authorities should also bear in mind that some of the recommendations in this report are likely to lead to an increased requirement for housing in other types of system. Considering the importance placed on animal welfare by some members of the public, it is essential that this aspect is not overlooked.


    Recommendation
    138. Planning authorities should accept animal welfare as an important factor when siting poultry houses. Where necessary, planning officials should seek expert advice from those with experience of hen welfare.


    PART VII: SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

    Future aims
    1. Battery cages which do not provide a nest box, perch or litter arguably cause hens frustration and suffering. It may be that battery cages in their present form should be phased out throughout the EU if hens can be practically provided with greater space, nests, perches and possibly scratching, foraging and dust bathing facilities in other systems without increasing injurious pecking. FAWC is of the opinion that the use of conventional battery cages should be phased out in the long term with the following provisos which should be energetically pursued:


    The UK industry must be protected from unfair competition from elsewhere within the EU; phasing out throughout the EU must take place simultaneously.
    Imports of shell eggs and egg products into the EU must be banned from those countries in which conventional battery cages are still used. GATT/WTO arrangements should not be allowed to prevent these measures and, if necessary, the UK Government should seek an amendment to the agreement in order to protect the welfare of animals.
    There are signs that genetic selection for reduced injurious pecking behaviour may remove an obstacle to the widespread use of non-cage systems. The phasing out of battery cages should not be effected until after the elimination or successful control of injurious pecking and cannibalism through genetic progress or improvements to management technique.

    2. We group our recommendations into three basic categories:


    Early action - for implementation without delay;
    Longer term action - to be phased in as progress is made; and
    Further research and development - to assist future consideration of issues where uncertainty remains.


    Recommendations for early action
    3. The feeding to poultry of products derived from chicken meat and bones should be avoided. This will minimise the possibility of disease transmission through the feed (paragraph 43).

    4. In battery cage and multi-level systems, light intensity should be at least 5 lux, and preferably not less than 10 lux, measured at any feed trough level; in other systems, light intensity in the perching, walking and feeding areas should be at least 10 lux measured at bird eye height (paragraph 49).

    5. We urge the Government to take action to ensure that the welfare of the UK flock is not disadvantaged by formalities which inhibit the availability of effective medicines (paragraph 58).

    6. We consider that beak trimming is a most undesirable mutilation which should be avoided if at all possible and only used if essential to prevent worse welfare problems of injurious feather pecking and cannibalism (paragraph 69).

    7. All breeding companies should be strongly encouraged by the laying hen industry and Government to pursue genetic selection for birds which display less injurious behaviour (paragraph 72).

    8. We recommend that, if beak trimming is essential, it should be carried out at up to 10 days of age (ideally 7-10 days of age which is currently best practice in the UK industry). Neither trimming nor re-trimming of older birds should be carried out other than under the recommendation of a veterinarian and only in order to avoid a worse welfare problem, e.g. caused by an outbreak of cannibalism (paragraph 73).

    9. The law already prohibits the fitting of blinkers by a method involving the penetration or other mutilation of the nasal septum. FAWC believes that all forms of devices fitted to hens' heads (such as spectacles, contact lenses and nasal bits) are detrimental to welfare and should be prohibited

    (paragraph 75).

    10. Where hens are kept extensively and may be free to range it is important to provide some overhead shelter and to ensure that they are protected from predators by day and confined in the building during the hours of darkness (paragraph 88).

    11. Those responsible for the management of the farm should ensure that the hens are cared for by sufficient, well-motivated, competent, properly trained stockpeople. Any contract or casual labour used in periods of increased workload should be trained and competent in the relevant activity. Producers, and producer organisations, should take steps to ensure that standards of formal training are monitored (paragraph 90).

    12. The law requires hens to be inspected at least daily. This inspection should be sufficiently thorough to detect illness and injury of individual hens and we believe that inspection should take place at least twice a day (paragraph 93).

    13. FAWC believes strongly that conventional cages with a minimum space allowance of 450cm²/hen, as prescribed in the present EC Directive (88/166/EEC), are unacceptable and that more space must be provided as a matter of urgency. We recommend that the Directive should be amended immediately to require a minimum space allowance in all battery cages of 600cm²/hen within five years and with immediate effect in new installations. Uniform and effective implementation and enforcement of the amended Directive are essential throughout the EU; imports of eggs from third countries should be subject to the same conditions (paragraph 98).

    14. We urge the Government to pursue implementation of recommendations made in the Report on the Welfare of Hens in Colony Systems (1991) and accepted in the Government response for implementation on an EU basis (some of these are modified in the following paragraphs). The forthcoming EU review offers an ideal opportunity to do this (paragraph 111).

    15. Best practice within the industry would suggest that in non-cage systems individual nest boxes should be provided at a rate of at least one for every five or six hens and that communal nest boxes should be provided at a maximum rate of 120 birds/m² of nest box area, dependent on well designed nest boxes and the appropriate strain of bird (paragraph 113).

    16. We recommend a minimum perching allocation of 15cm length per hen in non-cage systems, provided that the system design allows easy perch access (paragraph 115).

    17. We accept industry best practice and recommend allowing a maximum of 100 hens per standard bell-type drinker or 10 birds per nipple or cup drinker (paragraph 117).

    18. We re-iterate our earlier recommendation for a minimum provision of 10cm of linear feed trough length per hen (i.e. 5cm each side). We also now recommend at least 4cm per hen of the perimeter when circular feeders are used (paragraph 118).

    19. For free range hens, we recommend that the maximum stocking density of 1000 birds per hectare is maintained. We agree with industry practice that a maximum distance of 350 m from the poultry building should be allowed for the purpose of calculating the total number of birds that may be kept in an enclosure (paragraph 128).

    20. It is important to establish a system of rotation of grazing or house movement in order to prevent poaching and build up of disease

    (paragraph 129).

    21. Planning authorities should accept animal welfare as an important factor when siting poultry houses. Where necessary, officials should seek expert advice from those with experience of hen welfare (paragraph 138).

    Recommendations for longer term action
    22. Government should pursue with its EU counterparts improved harmonisation of registration procedures to ensure uniformity and increase the range of medicines available (paragraph 59).

    23. We recommend that steps should be taken to ensure that there is a significant reduction in the occurrence and severity of bone damage. We wish to see continuing improvements to the design of facilities for hens. We urge the industry, with FAWC involvement, to establish levels of bone weakness problems and the extent of bone damage by examination of bird carcasses at the slaughterhouse; and to demonstrate improvements over a five year period. FAWC will keep the matter under review (paragraph 61).

    24. We have seen perches in battery cages and we know of evidence to suggest improved bone strength, although possibly at the expense of increased egg breakages. This modification could be readily made in cages at 600cm²/hen. If perches are incorporated they should provide 12cm of perch length per bird to allow all birds to perch at the same time. Where perches are provided the height of the cage should be sufficient for the birds to be able to perch comfortably (paragraph 108).

    25. We recommend that it should be compulsory for eggs to be labelled according to their system of production (paragraph 133).

    26. We recommend that packs of mixed eggs should be labelled as "may contain eggs from hens in any production system". This description should only be used on mixed packs (paragraph 135).

    Recommendations for research and development
    27. We recommend further research work to identify and quantify the factors in animal protein responsible for reducing injurious behaviour in laying hens (paragraph 42).

    28. Research is required into the physiological and behavioural responses in hens at different light intensities and wavelengths with particular reference to the incidence of injurious pecking. More information is required to determine the minimum light levels required for hens to perform normal investigative behaviour and how visual acuity is affected by lighting conditions (paragraph 50).

    29. We recommend that the egg production industry sets up a survey of the incidence of beak trimming of laying birds in all systems in the UK. FAWC will keep the matter under review (paragraph 70).

    30. We believe that the prevention of injurious feather pecking and cannibalism is a most important area for research and development and we are clear that the poultry industry and scientists must work together to solve the problem. This should include studies using relatively large flock sizes and under a range of practical conditions which can be carefully defined in order to derive workable guidelines (paragraph 71).

    31. More research into the pain, both immediate and chronic, associated with beak trimming of young (less than 10 day old) chicks is required. There is a need to assess the longer term effects of various methods of beak trimming on pecking behaviour patterns and whether beaks that re-grow are used for injurious feather pecking and cannibalism in a similar way to untrimmed beaks (paragraph 74).

    32. Further research, under a range of conditions which reflect practice, is required to clarify understanding of the space requirements of hens which can be translated into more precise and practical recommendations

    (paragraph 78).

    33. We recommend that further research be carried out to determine what a hen perceives as a nest and to define the attributes of such a nest to aid practical developments which would suit a range of systems (paragraph 82).

    34. We recommend that applied and carefully targeted research on the space and facilities required by hens in enriched cages should be continued and developed on a commercial scale. Measures must be made of the effect of space and facilities on both behaviour and production. This should take account of the quality of the environment, as it may be better for a hen to have less space in an enriched environment than more space in a barren cage where increased injurious pecking behaviour may occur resulting in the need to beak trim (paragraph 107).

    35. Research is needed to establish optimum flock sizes for laying hens (paragraph 120).

    Appendix A: The Farm Animal Welfare Council


    Background

    The Council is an independent advisory body on farm animal welfare which was established by the Government in 1979. Its terms of reference are, "to keep under review the welfare of farm animals on agricultural land, at market, in transit and at the place of slaughter, and to advise the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales of any legislative or other changes that may be necessary". The Council can investigate any topic falling within its remit and communicate freely with outside bodies, the European Commission and the public.

    Membership


    Professor Sir Colin R W Spedding, CBE- Chairman

    Dr M R Baxter

    Mr G Berry

    Dr W J M Black, MBE

    Professor D M Broom

    Professor S R L Clark

    Mr T C Harris

    Mrs F F Hodgson

    Mr G J Lloyd

    Mr A R Lucas

    Mrs J A MacArthur Clark

    Mr R Macpherson

    Professor J P McInerney, OBE

    Miss M J Parker

    Dr M Pattison

    Dr M J Potter

    Mr F E Shields, OBE

    Mr P F Staines, MBE

    Mr J G Thomas

    Mrs J M Turnbull

    Mr A Watkins (left Council June 1997)

    Dr A C Winter

    The late Mr C T P Hollands, OBE was a member of FAWC for a large proportion of this study.
     
  8. LittleChickenRacingTeam

    LittleChickenRacingTeam On vacation

    Jan 11, 2007
    Ontario, CANADA
    Appendix B: Those who gave evidence and assistance


    ADAS

    Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand

    British Egg Industry Council

    British Free Range Egg Producers Association

    British Retail Consortium

    British Veterinary Association

    D Chennells and Company

    Compassion in World Farming

    Consumers Association

    Crowshall Veterinary Services

    Countryside Products Limited

    CWS Agriculture

    CWS Co-op Brand

    Daylay Food Limited

    The Eden Valley Egg Company

    Farm Animal Welfare Network

    Farm and Food Society

    Federation of Swedish Farmers

    Freedom Food

    Glenrath Pullets Limited

    Grassington Rangers Limited

    Harper Adams Agriculture College

    Hellig and Jones Veterinary Surgeons

    Hy-line UK Limited

    Institute for Animal Science and Health, The Netherlands

    ISA Poultry Services Limited

    Joice and Hill Limited

    Kronägg, Sweden

    Lincolnshire Food Industry Partnership

    Marks and Spencer Plc

    MAFF

    Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, New Zealand

    National Farmers Union

    Oasters, Fridays (Cranbrook) Limited

    Poultry Industry Partnership

    Roslin Institute, Edinburgh

    Ross Poultry Limited

    Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

    Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

    Safeway Plc

    SOAEFD

    Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

    Stonegate Farmers Limited

    Mr O Swarbrick

    Swedish Board of Agriculture

    Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    Swiss Society for the Protection of Animals

    The University of Bristol

    The University of Cambridge

    The University of Edinburgh

    The University of Glasgow

    The University of Guelph, Canada

    The University of Liverpool

    The University of Manchester

    The University of Oxford

    United Kingdom Egg Producers Association

    Universities Federation for Animal Welfare

    WOAD

    Women's Farming Union

    and the farmers, stockmen and veterinarians who members of the working group met during visits.


    APPENDIX C: Egg production systems visited


    Laying cages

    1. Commercial - stepped and vertical up to 6 tiers high, gravity, scraper and belt clean with space allowances of approximately 450, 500 and 600cm²/bird. Some containing perches.

    2. Experimental modified enriched cages - 7 types including those designed by the Universities of Edinburgh and Bristol and Gleadthorpe and Funbo Lovsta poultry research centres.

    Percheries

    3. Multi-tier stocked at 15.5 and 18 birds/m².

    4. Single tier stocked at 11.7 birds/m².

    Aviaries

    5. Tiered wire floor type (e.g. Marielund and Lovsta).

    6. Perforated floor type plus perches (Vencomatic) stocked at 15 to

    18 birds/m².

    7. Some members of the group visited tiered wire floor aviaries in the Netherlands, and Natura and Boleg aviaries in Switzerland, stocked at 18 to

    21 birds/m², in connection with the Report on the Welfare of Laying Hens in Colony Systems 1991.

    Deep litter and modified deep litter

    8. With and without an attached "winter garden", stocked at 7 to

    11.7 birds/m².

    Free range

    9. Large fixed houses with set stocked or rotational pen pasture.

    10. Large polythene tunnels houses moved approximately once a year.

    11. Small houses moved frequently over the pasture.

    12. All stocked at about 1000 birds/ha. of total land assigned to the flock.


    Appendix D: EC Egg Marketing Regulations - Annex II (as at June 1997)


    Minimum criteria to be met by poultry enterprises producing egg as referred to in Article 18 (1) (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e).

    (a) Eggs in small packs bearing the words Free range eggs' must be produced in

    poultry enterprises in which:

    - hens have continuous daytime access to open-air runs.

    - the ground to which hens have access is mainly covered with vegetation.

    - the maximum stocking density is not greater than 1000 hens per hectare of ground available to the hens or one hen per 10 m².

    - the interior of the building must satisfy the conditions specified in (c) or (d).

    (b) Eggs in small packs bearing the words Semi-intensive eggs' must be produced in poultry enterprises in which:

    - hens have continuous daytime access to open-air runs,

    - the ground to which hens have access is mainly covered with vegetation,

    - the maximum stocking density is not greater than 4000 hens per hectare of the ground available to the hens or one hen per 2.5 m²,

    - the interior of the building must satisfy the conditions specified in (c) or (d).

    (c) Eggs in small packs bearing the words Deep litter eggs' must be produced in poultry enterprises in which:

    - the maximum stocking density is not greater than seven hens per square metre of floor space available to the hens.

    - at least a third of this floor area is covered with a litter material such as straw, wood shaving, sand or turf.

    a sufficiently large part of the floor area available to the hens is used for the collection of bird droppings.

    (d) Eggs in small packs bearing the words Perchery eggs (Barn eggs)' must be produced in poultry enterprises in which:

    - the maximum stocking density is no greater than 25 hens per square metre of floor space available to the hens,

    - the interior of the building is fitted with perches of a length sufficient to ensure at least 15 cm of perch space for each hen.

    (e) Eggs in small packs bearing the words "Eggs from caged hens" must be produced in poultry enterprises in which is used the "Battery system" provided for in Council Directive 88/166/EEC.

    Appendix E: The Swedish experience


    1. An act of the Swedish Parliament was passed in 1988 which stated that hens kept for egg production purposes should not be housed in battery cages after 1 January 1999. This was in response to a public demand. Beak trimming is not permitted in Sweden.

    2. Since 1988, investigations in Sweden, funded by both Government and industry, have been concentrated on how a ban on battery cages could be facilitated by the development of other systems of keeping hens, which, in particular, concentrated on a very high health status.

    3. It has recently become clear that there will be difficulty in applying a rigid ban on battery cages in Sweden by 1 January 1999. It appears that the Swedish Government may allow farmers who maintain a very high health and welfare status in their caged birds to continue for a limited time. The Swedish work on alternative systems continues, concentrating on the main problems of cannibalism, hygiene and the quality of working environment. Work on the development of enriched cages is being pursued.

    4. Thus the political decision of 1988 to ban battery cages by 1999 is likely to prove very difficult to achieve, mainly because of the continuing problems of alternative non-cage systems when beak trimming is not allowed. The Swedish egg production industry, which is at present approximately 90% in battery cages is very much at risk, as there is ready potential for eggs to be imported from neighbouring countries. This experience is relevant to the UK where we have similar continuing problems with the alternative systems to battery cages. FAWC members were grateful to the Swedish authorities and research workers for their invaluable help in explaining the background to the current position in their country.
     
  9. Buff Hooligans

    Buff Hooligans Scrambled

    12,147
    90
    311
    Jun 11, 2007
    LCRT, as usual, your data isn't nearly detailed or studied enough to come to any sort of conclusion. Plus, they didn't even MENTION grapes!
     
  10. LittleChickenRacingTeam

    LittleChickenRacingTeam On vacation

    Jan 11, 2007
    Ontario, CANADA
    Sorry I posted a condensed version, so members could get an easy grasp on the SIMPLE facts.

    As for grapes, I can personally attest to their usefulness if you are looking to train a chicken to fly a kite, or Chicken Chariot Race.

    Which reminds me, LUCKY starts her training today for the big race in June.
     

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