What exactly is a battery cage?
Hens are known to be social, curious, and interested. They are always moving around, stretching their wings and perching to peck things.
Battery cages can also be harmful to hens’ physical and mental well-being. You may have seen images of hens caged in battery cages during our campaign to liberate hens. Here, we show you what they look like in Australia.
Battery cages were first introduced in Australia in the 1950s. Unfortunately, the welfare of hens was not taken into consideration as the industry was driven by the need to increase production and economic profits in the postwar period. Unfortunately, we still have problems today as a result of this. There are currently nearly 11 million hens in battery cages all over Australia.
The cages are completely wired on all sides. This means that the hens will always be standing on the wire. The floor slopes downwards to allow the eggs laid to roll down and be collected. The hens must remain on the wire floor, which slopes downwards for their entire life, without any respite. The cages are usually around 40cm tall, but they can be large enough to accommodate many hens. There’s a misconception that each battery cage can only house one hen. In reality, between four and nine hens are usually crammed into each cell.
But bigger cages do not mean that there is more space for the hens. They suggest that they will be packed into the cell. Each hen is given an area smaller than an A4 piece of paper. There is not enough room for birds to spread their wing, stretch, or move around. The cages have a food trough for the hens that they can reach by sticking their head through the wire. The birds lose feathers from their necks and face due to the constant rubbing of the cage wires.
These cages are where the hens spend their entire life.
The cages can be found in large sheds that contain thousands of pens stacked on top of each other. The name “battery cage” comes from the fact that the cages are stacked together and resemble the cells of a large battery.
Producers can access the hens through walkways between rows of cages. However, it is notoriously difficult to check the hens at the top and bottom levels. The light inside the shed is controlled to encourage hens to lay more eggs. Ventilation can also be controlled.
The cage-egg industry uses the term “conventional cages” to distance itself from the negative perceptions of “battery cages.” They are the same. Over the last 15 years, the space available for each bird has increased by approximately 100cm 2 (roughly the same size as a postcard).
In the 1950s, we began to do extensive research, and now we know how battery cages affect hens. In the 1950s, animal welfare was measured by whether or not an animal could survive and reproduce. But now we know that interest is much more complex. Scientific research confirms the common sense that hens can feel pain and are sentient. We have a moral responsibility to give them a life that is worth living.
Battery-caged hens are severely affected by the cramped space, material, and lack of freedom of movement. They also suffer from the barren conditions in which they live. The hens are unable to move and spread their wings, so their muscles weaken. They may collapse and become paralyzed due to this. This is known as “layer hen fatigue.” They may become paralyzed if their spinal bones collapse. For more information about why battery cages are bad for hens,
See also RSPCA Australia’s report on the welfare of layer hens in cage and cage-free housing systems.
Knowing what a battery cage looks and does makes it easy to decide to remove them. No animal should be forced to spend their entire life, or even a small part of it, in a tiny cage.