Welfare of laying hens: code of practice

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


1 This Code (which applies in Scotland only) applies to laying hens kept in various production systems. The recommendations are relevant to birds in all types of husbandry systems, although a different balance of welfare benefits and disbenefits applies to hens kept in different systems. Following these recommendations will help to ensure that the welfare of the birds is safeguarded.

2 No person should operate or set up a laying hen unit unless the welfare of all the birds can be safeguarded. This can be achieved by ensuring that the buildings and equipment, and the skills and ability of the flock-keeper, are appropriate to the husbandry system and the number of birds to be kept.

3 The relevant animal welfare legislation applies to owners as well as any person looking after the birds on their behalf, wherever the birds are located. A written contract can be of value in ensuring that all parties are clear about their responsibilities in respect of welfare. However, the obligations imposed by the law will still apply whether or not a contract exists.

4 The strain of bird selected must be suitable for the production system.

Schedule 3 of The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 (S.S.I. 2010 No. 388) lays down additional standards for the protection of laying hens.

This does not apply to establishments with fewer than 350 laying hens.

Such establishments shall, however, continue to be subject to the relevant requirements of Directive 98/58/EC, which has been implemented in Scotland by Schedule 1 of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 (S.S.I. 2010 No. 388).

Regulation 2 (1) of The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 (S.S.I. 2010 No. 388) provides the following definition:

  • "laying hen" means an animal of the species gallus gallus which has reached laying maturity and is kept for production of eggs not intended for hatching

Schedule 3, Part 1, paragraph 1 of The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 (S.S.I. 2010 No. 388) provides the following additional definitions:

  • "litter" means any friable material enabling the hens to satisfy their ethological needs
  • "nest" means a separate space for egg laying, the floor components of which may not include wire mesh that can come into contact with the birds, for an individual hen or a group of hens
  • "usable area" means an area, other than any nesting area used by laying hens at least 30cm wide with a floor slope not exceeding 14% and with headroom of at least 45cm


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