Cage systems

New developments in housing systems sometimes make it difficult to distinguish between cage and non-cage systems. If the system is operated from outside and carers do not enter the system it is regarded here as a cage.

Conventional laying cages (CC) are usually small enclosures with welded wire mesh sloping floors. They provide equipment only for feeding, drinking, egg collection, manure removal, insertion and removal of hens, and claw shortening.

These cages fall into the category of the EU-Directive "unenriched cage systems"

Furnished cages (FC) provide all the equipment found in conventional cages and in addition provide equipment intended to enable hens to provide for some of their strong behavioural priorities. These extra elements may include perches, nest boxes, a litter area and extra height. These cages fall into the category of the EU-Directive "Enriched cages" if they are equipped with appropriate perches, suitable nest boxes and friable litter. The term furnished cages is used here because it gives a more accurate description. For example, adding a perch or a nest to a cage can be factually described as furnishing it whereas it is a matter of opinion whether or not it enriches it.

FCs come into a wide variety of group sizes. Up to 10 -12 birds they are generally referred to as small groups (See figures 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3). At the moment larger cages may house up to 60 birds (See figures 3.4, 3.5 and 3.7). 15 to 30 birds could be regarded as medium sized groups and above this number they would be large groups. Neither the maximum or optimum number of birds is yet defined.

There are a wide variety of FC designs. Positioning and layout of equipment is important to allow proper use and thus contribute to bird welfare, hygiene and performance. Nest boxes can be placed at the rear, the side or close to the front of the cage. This can affect bird inspection and the hygiene of eggs and birds. Litter may be provided either in boxes or on mats on the cage floor (See figure 3.6). Litter boxes may be located over the nest or at a lower level at the side or rear of the cage. Perches can be arranged in a variety of positions and heights; some are more satisfactory than others. Cage dimensions are strongly related to group size and may influence bird inspection and depopulation.