Welfare of laying hens: code of practice

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


References

For labelling purposes only, Commission Regulation (EC) No. 589/2008 as amended laying down detailed rules for implementing Council Regulation (EC) No. 1234/2007 as regards marking standards for eggs, requires that poultry enterprises must comply with the following minimum criteria in order to mark their small egg packs with the terms shown:

1. 'Free-range eggs' must be produced in systems of production which satisfy at least the conditions specified in Article 4 of Council Directive 1999/74/ EC.

In particular, the following conditions must be satisfied:

(a) hens must have continuous daytime access to open-air runs. However, this requirement does not prevent a producer from restricting access for a limited period of time in the morning hours in accordance with usual good farming practice, including good animal husbandry practice.

In case of other restrictions, including veterinary restrictions, adopted under Community law to protect public and animal health, having the effect of restricting access of hens to open-air runs, eggs may continue to be marketed as 'free-range eggs' for the duration of the restriction, but under no circumstances for more than 12 weeks;

(b) open-air runs to which hens have access must be mainly covered with vegetation and not be used for other purposes except for orchards, woodland and livestock grazing if the latter is authorised by the competent authorities;

(c) the maximum stocking density of open-air runs must not be greater than 2,500 hens per hectare of ground available to the hens or one hen per 4m 2 at all times. However, where at least 10m 2 per hen is available and where rotation is practised and hens are given even access to the whole area over the flock's life, each paddock used must at any time assure at least 2.5m 2 per hen;

(d) open-air runs must not extend beyond a radius of 150m from the nearest pophole of the building. However, an extension of up to 350m from the nearest pophole of the building is permissible provided that a sufficient number of shelters as referred to in Article 4(1)(3)(b)(ii) of Directive 1999/74/ EC are evenly distributed throughout the whole open-air run with at least four shelters per hectare.

2. 'Barn eggs' must be produced in systems of production which satisfy at least the conditions specified in Article 4 of Directive 1999/74/ EC.

3. 'Eggs from caged hens' must be produced in systems of production which satisfy at least:

  • the conditions specified in Article 6 of Directive 1999/74/ EC.

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