Happy New Year!!
I was a bit later than usual opening up the henhouse on New Year’s Day ( our celebrations went on long into the night!!) and found them all sitting in a line at the top of the house, eager to get out. As I watched them run out stretching their wings and clucking enthusiastically I wondered how many of Europe’s battery hens were enjoying their extra 200cm2 of cage space as a result of the new EU legislation.
From 1st January 2012 the new law states that all battery cages, which up until now have allowed each bird a space less than the size of an A4 piece of paper in a sloping wire bottomed cage, must be replace by “enriched” cages, which allow 750 cm2 of wired floor space per bird as well as nesting & perching areas and litter to scratch in.
In effect, not including the nesting areas which can be shared by up to 100 birds, the extra space amounts to not much more than the size of an average Christmas card. Hardly a big improvement but a step in the right direction I suppose, given that at least being able to walk around a bit must be better than not at all.
But there’s still a long long way to go. Although having had 12 years to prepare for it many countries still aren’t compliant & probably won’t be for many years to come.
In contrast our little flock have the luxury of a whopping 611,111cm2 each and a henhouse with straw filled nesting boxes,a sawdust covered floor, perches at all different heights & ladders to climb up.
Admittedly, we aren’t exactly producing for Carrefour but still… it makes you think.
We can all do our bit to help though by refusing to buy eggs from caged hens, enriched or otherwise. When we occasionally have to supplement our little supply of eggs , we only ever buy those labelled with code 0 ( organic) or 1 ( free range). Code 2 are barn eggs from hens which are housed in large sheds with room to scratch, perch & dust-bathe but no permanent access to outside & code 3 eggs are from caged hens – there isn’t a separate code for eggs from enriched cages.
This year we’re planning to add a few more hens to our flock so that guests can buy fresh eggs straight from the henhouse.
Of course it won’t change overnight, & just swapping over to free range eggs won’t be enough….what about all the things we eat which contain processed eggs – powdered or in liquid form? Or going a bit further, what about the chickens we eat? What kind of life have they led?
But it’s a start and hopefully somewhere down the line the cages which cause these birds to suffer & endure such an unnatural lifestyle will become as rare as hens’ teeth.