Colony Battery Cage Cruelty

Evidence shows that colony battery cages fail to meet the welfare needs of hens, and the European Scientific Panel on Animal Health and Welfare has identified the most serious threats to cage birds. These are:

  • low bone strength and fractures sustained during removal from cages. This is when speed is of the essence and birds are often handled roughly.
  • the inability to perform high priority behaviours.

Colony cages do not provide the hens with sufficient space. The 750 square centimetres of space (about the size of an A4 sheet of paper) is barely larger than the space the hens have in existing cages. Like all animals, hens are biologically designed to move around. The inability to do this in a cage can lead to bone weakness and osteoporosis – a clear indicator of poor welfare.

Hens in colony cages are still kept inside small cages inside semi-dark sheds. They stand on an uncomfortable sloping wire floor and will never enjoy sunshine or the ability to live as nature intended. In the wild hens would roam, but in cages they can barely take a few steps. They have sore feet from standing on a wire floor and feathers missing due to being pecked by cage mates and rubbing against the sides of the cage.


Almost all normal hen behaviour requires more space than a colony cage provides, and research cited by the government acknowledged that:

  • “all designs [of colony cage] failed to provide a satisfactory nest from the hens’ perspective.”
  • “The use of [the scratching area] to dust bathe by laying hens in colony cages has been shown to vary between 21 and 81% depending on the cage model.”

This does not account for behaviours like “extensive locomotion” or “exploration,” as these are considered luxury behaviours by the government.  SAFE believes it is important that birds are able to move around freely – one of the key factors in their bone strength. Research from the EU, supports the view that colony cages are not sufficient for a hen’s needs.

Colony cages are of insufficient height and do not allow the hens to perform a normal range of head movements. Studies have shown that, given the chance, hens have a strong preference for cages taller than colony cages, which prevent 25-30% of natural head movements.

Hens in colony cages cannot create their own social relationships and strive to distance themselves from other birds. The natural pecking order is disrupted. Studies have shown that hens choose which birds to be close to and which to avoid. Forcing them to live in such close proximity causes them stress.