Welfare of laying hens: code of practice

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

Stockmanship and staffing

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

Animals must be cared for by a sufficient number of staff who possess the appropriate ability, knowledge and professional competence.

5 It is essential that sufficient, well-motivated and competent personnel are employed to carry out all necessary tasks. Staff should be well managed and supervised, fully conversant with the tasks they will be required to undertake and competent in the use of any equipment.

6 All flock-keepers should demonstrate full understanding of the welfare needs and basic biology of the birds and have shown that they are capable of safeguarding them under all foreseeable conditions before being given responsibility for a flock. A good flock-keeper will have a compassionate and humane attitude, will be able to anticipate and avoid many potential welfare problems, and have the ability to identify those that do occur and respond to them promptly.

7 Staff, including those employed by contractors, should be given appropriate training. This requires the acquisition of specific stockmanship skills, which may be developed on-farm, working with an experienced person, or by following a course offered by a suitable training provider. Flock-keepers should demonstrate competence and understanding before they are given responsibility for the birds. Training should continue throughout the duration of the employment and suitable refresher courses should be undertaken regularly. Wherever possible, the training should be of a type that leads to formal recognition of competence.

8 A training plan should be implemented to ensure that those working with laying hens recognise not only normal behaviour and good health but also signs of illness or disease or impending health problems. If specialised tasks are to be performed, for example vaccination or humane culling, then specific training should be given. Alternatively, the services of a competent contractor using trained staff should be obtained.

9 Staff should establish a methodical routine in completing the range of tasks involved in keeping laying hens. As part of this they should be particularly vigilant in checking that the systems are operating properly and birds are behaving normally. This will enable flock-keepers to detect problems in their earliest stages and acquire a good understanding of the action to be taken if a problem is noticed. If the cause is not obvious, or if the flock-keeper's action is not effective, immediate veterinary or technical advice should be obtained.

10 It is essential to ensure that enough time is available within the flock-keepers daily work routine for birds to be properly inspected and for any remedial action to be taken. The flock-keeper should have adequate knowledge of the husbandry system used to be able to appreciate the suitability of the total environment for the birds' health and welfare. The system used, the number of birds kept and their stocking rate should depend on the suitability of the conditions and the skill of the flock-keeper.

11 Young birds should be given, where possible, appropriate experience of management practices (e.g. particular feeding and watering systems) and environmental conditions (e.g. natural light, perches, litter) to enable them to adapt to the husbandry systems which they will encounter later in life. In order to develop a positive relationship between keeper and bird there shall be frequent, quiet but close approach from an early age.


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