New Zealand: Feedback sought on draft code of welfare for layer hens

09-02-2011 | | |

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) has completed a review of the Animal Welfare (Layer Hens) Code of Welfare 2005 and a draft code has been released for public consultation.

The review has been a priority for NAWAC and was programmed so it could re-examine the use of cages for layer hens in light of new research and current good practice.

The draft code proposes that the use of cages be phased out. From a date to be determined following consultation, all housing for layer hens must provide sufficient space to allow hens to stand erect over all the available floor space and to extend and flap their wings. Housing must also allow hens to lay their eggs in a discrete nesting area, perch, and show foraging and dustbathing behaviour. This could include housing in enriched colony systems, barns (hens are loose inside a shed) and free range housing (hens have access to the outdoors).

NAWAC Chairman Dr John Hellstrom says the challenge with non-cage alternatives for layer hens is that management has to be sufficient to deal with disease and aggression problems that can arise.

“NAWAC does not want to see layer hens experiencing worse animal welfare as a result of any transition away from cages. Changes to management practices take time and are essential to ensure that welfare is improved.”

Dr Hellstrom notes that despite NAWAC proposing a phase out of cages it will not make a final decision on when this will occur until after public consultation.

There have been three economic analyses of the effects of prohibiting the use of cages conducted. The timeframe over which changes are implemented will impact significantly on producers and consumers so NAWAC has considered these analyses and developed suggested options to also be considered during the consultation.

The draft code is available at and the closing date for submissions is 25 March 2011.

Source: MAF Biosecurity New Zealand