We rehome hens as pets and not as laying hens but they will continue to lay for a few years after rescue. Newly released hens adapt quite quickly to their new environments and it does not take long for them to display their natural behaviours, such as flapping wings, scratching, digging, dust bathing and sunbathing. They make excellent pets, are relatively low maintenance and they are very friendly with great characters!
Commercial laying hens, such as caged, colony, barn and even free range are all considered to be ‘spent’ at the young age of 18 months. As they go into a natural moult at this age, there is a decrease in egg production and they are no longer deemed commercially valuable to the farmer. Therefore at this age the farms are ‘depopulated’. In other words, the hens are sent to slaughter to be replaced by younger hens coming in to lay.
It is estimated there are around 33 million laying hens in the UK and around half of these are kept in caged systems (enriched or colony). The other half are either kept in a barn environment or are free range.
January 2012 saw a ban on the traditional ‘battery’ cages. The cages were barren with wire floors, no privacy to lay, no space to stretch, no perches and the hens could not display any natural behaviours. ‘Enriched’ and ‘colony’ cages were the replacement to battery cages and although they offer a more private area to lay and in some cases, a small perch and scratch area (of which there is no minimum size requirement), the hens do not have much more room than the standard A4 equivalent and still can not exercise properly, dust bathe, stretch or flap their wings.
Barn hens may not be confined to cages but still do not have the space to exercise freely or to carry out natural behaviours and never see daylight.
While the term ‘free range’ conjures up visions of hens running free in fields, it is unlikely that the majority of these hens ever see the outdoors, due to the sheer numbers of them populating the barns which can be up to 16,000 in larger scale farms.
We may not agree with factory farming methods but we have a great deal of respect for the farmers who work with us. Without them, we would not be able to do what we do.
For more information on factory farming and the egg industry, visit: