Welfare of laying hens: code of practice

The code aims to help those responsible for laying hens to look after them properly.


Environment

Ventilation, temperature

Schedule 1, paragraph 13 of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 (S.S.I. 2010 No. 388) states that:

Air circulation, dust levels, temperature, relative air humidity and gas concentrations must be kept within limits which are not harmful to the animals.

48 Provision of insulation and ventilation should be designed to avoid heat and cold stress. Care should be taken to protect confined birds from draughts in cold conditions.

49 Birds, particularly those in cages, should not be exposed to strong direct sunlight or hot surroundings long enough to cause heat stress as indicated by prolonged panting.

50 In the event of feather loss, steps should be taken wherever possible to ensure that hens are not subjected to cold stress; for example, hens should be given more food.

51 The ventilation system, and facilities for storing and handling litter and manure should be designed, maintained and managed to prevent the exposure of birds to gases such as ammonia, hydrogen sulphide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide in concentrations which cause discomfort to the birds or which are detrimental to their health.

Light

Schedule 1, paragraphs 14-16 of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 (S.S.I. 2010 No. 388), state that:

  • animals kept in buildings must not be kept in permanent darkness
  • where the natural light available in a building is insufficient to meet the physiological and ethological needs of any animals being kept in it then appropriate artificial lighting must be provided
  • animals kept in buildings must not be kept without an appropriate period of rest from artificial lighting

Schedule 3, Part 2, paragraph 4 of The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2010 (S.S.I. 2010 No. 388) provides that:

  • all buildings must have light levels sufficient to allow all hens to see one another and be seen clearly, to investigate their surroundings visually and to show normal levels of activity. Where there is natural light, light apertures must be arranged in such a way that light is distributed evenly within the accommodation
  • after the first days of conditioning, the lighting regime must be such as to prevent health and behavioural problems. Accordingly, it must follow a 24-hour rhythm and include an adequate uninterrupted period of darkness lasting about one-third of the day, so that the hens may rest and to avoid problems such as immunodepression and ocular anomalies. A period of twilight of sufficient duration ought to be provided when the light is dimmed so that the hens may settle down without disturbance or injury.

52 In normal conditions, in 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. However, a reduction in lighting level may assist in addressing an outbreak of vice such as feather pecking or cannibalism.

53 In all houses, especially those with natural light, measures should be taken to ensure that light distribution is as even as possible.

54 A period of twilight should be provided to give birds time to roost; this is of particular importance in alternative systems and enriched cages.

Litter

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 (S.S.I. 2010 No. 388), Schedule 3, Part 5, paragraph 17(e); additional conditions applicable to laying hens kept in non-cage systems; states that:

All systems must be equipped in such a way that all laying hens have:

  • at least 250cm 2 of littered area per hen, the litter occupying at least one-third of the ground surface

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 (S.S.I. 2010 No. 388), Schedule 3, Part 4, paragraph 12(c); additional conditions applicable to laying hens kept in enriched cages; states that:

Laying hens must have:

  • litter such that pecking and scratching are possible

55 In alternative systems, all birds should have access to a littered area which should be maintained in a friable condition and at an adequate depth for dust bathing, approximately 10cm. To ensure good litter management, this depth of litter may be made up over the first two months of use. Birds should have access to good quality substrate for dust bathing and to prevent health problems, in particular foot, leg and breast lesions.

56 Mouldy litter should not be used. There should be frequent checks to ensure that litter does not become infested with harmful organisms parasitic to birds.

Noise

Schedule 3, Part 2, paragraph 3 of The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 (S.S.I. 2010 No. 388) states that:

  • the sound level must be minimised
  • constant or sudden noise must be avoided
  • ventilation fans, feeding machinery or other equipment must be constructed, placed, operated and maintained in such a way that they cause the least possible amount of noise

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