Every year in Australia there are approximately 16 million layer hens born, 9 million of which are housed in battery cages. These hens generally live around 72 weeks until they are no longer able to produce eggs at a sufficient rate, at which point they are killed on sight or transported to an abattoir for slaughter. As hens are not the same breed of chicken as those which are slaughtered for human consumption, the slaughtered hen will be used for pet food or lower-quality meat such as what is found in chicken stock. In their natural lifespan these hens can live up to 12 years. As you can see from our logo, we at ‘Til The Cows Come Home consider hens to be very important.
In Australia there are three different systems in which hens in a commercial setting are housed, these include battery cages, cage free and the free range system. The battery cage system involves multiple cages stacked above each other, with 3 to 7 hens crammed in one cage. Hens confined to the battery cage system will spend their entire lives in their cage. This system causes severe physical and psychological distress to hens, especially as the industry Code of Practice legally allows the hens to be confined to a space less than an A4 piece of paper. In the cage free system, the hens are not kept in cages but instead are able to move around large sheds. The downside of this system is that one shed houses thousands to tens of thousands of hens, that are again confined to spend their whole lives in that area, where space is largely overcrowded. The third system is the free range system which when well-managed allows hens to have outdoor areas during the day and allows hens to be able to freely move, unlike in the other two systems. However the free range system is still not perfect and the conditions vary from each location, especially as again the overcrowding of hens creates a significant disadvantage, and the outside areas can be as limited as an open window in a shed. All these ways of housing and treating of hens are facilitated through the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Poultry 2002, which sets out the standards farmers are to comply with when interacting with all ‘poultry’ including hens.
Currently in Australia the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Poultry is the “law” that governs how hens and other chickens are to be treated while in the various industries. Sometime this year the Australian Guidelines and Standards on Poultry will be released, replacing the Code of Practice. This new policy will focus on creating consistent legislation nationally and takes into account the welfare consideration of chickens. However, as seen in our previous articles on bobby calves (https://tilthecowscomehome.org/how-does-the-law-protect-calves-in-australia/), these guidelines and standards do not ensure the welfare and humane treatment of animals confined to the meat, diary and egg industries. That is why we at ‘Til The Cows Come Home provide the solution that our law in Australia fails to do, by giving farmers an option to surrender the ex layer hens they have to us so that we can help rehome them.
If you would like to help our cause, please consider making a donation at our secure PayPay link below: paypal.me/tilthecowscomehomeau You can also follow this link to see when hens are available for adoption in your region: https://www.facebook.com/tilthecowscomehomeau/photos/a.342543169601685/668353813687284/?type=3&theater and if there is then you can apply to adopt hens from us by filling out this application: https://tilthecowscomehome.org/adopt-an-animal/
By Luella Boteon
 RSPCA, ‘Layer Hen FAQ’, 2019, https://www.rspca.org.au/layer-hen-faq
 Michael Appleby, ‘Do Hens Suffer in Battery Cages’, (1991), Compassion in World Farming.