American Humane Certified, the American Humane Assn. animal welfare certification program, has announced that it now accepts enriched colony cages as humane systems for housing laying hens.
Previously, American Humane Certified did not accept any kind of cage housing.
American Humane Certified called its decision “significant” in that it offers egg producers 2 housing options to conventional cages: cage-free and colonies. American Humane Certified does not accept conventional cages, which are reported to be used in most US operations, but which have been banned in California and Michigan on phase-out schedules.
An enriched colony
An enriched colony is a cage system that European egg producers are transitioning to under government mandate and is 3-4 times larger than the traditional cage used in the US.
An enriched colony houses 40-60 hens, compared with 7-10 hens in the traditional US cage, and provides 116 sq. in. per hen, 50% more than the 77 sq. in. modern US cages – 76 sq. in. being the midpoint of the 67-87 sq. in. required for the US egg industry’s animal welfare program.
An enriched cage also provides perches, nesting and scratching areas and other “enrichments,” allowing hens to exhibit more of their natural behaviours.
American Humane Certified said its decision to endorse colonies came following “extensive scientific review” of the behaviour and welfare of hens housed in such systems in Europe, where conventional cages are scheduled to be banned completely in 2012.