With Autumn upon us, now is the time for building and maintenance on the farm.
Preparing for Cage-Free 2025
As you’ll likely be aware by now, the UK’s leading retailers and food service companies have committed to going “cage-free” by 2025, so now is the time to investigate providing high welfare environments for your laying birds.
Under the 2025 Cage-Free commitment there are three egg production ‘systems’, each with their own set of standards and requirements. Here’s a brief overview of each system to explain the key differences.
Laying hens kept in ‘barn egg’ conditions never go outside, but their environment is still enriched far more than in a cage farm scenario, with greater freedom of movement. In 2025, these standards will become the base level of bird welfare. However, the surge in demand for high quality free range and organic eggs means that many farmers are moving beyond a ‘barn egg’ system, instead choosing to provide higher bird welfare standards in order to meet free range or organic standards.
In order to be considered as ‘free range’, egg-laying hens require continuous daytime access to runs which are predominantly covered in vegetation.
Hens must be given freedom of movement around their shelter and the facility to display their natural behaviours such as scratching, perching and nesting. Free range chickens should be housed at a stocking density of 9 birds per square meter, with an allocation of slatted floor making up a maximum of 66% of the building’s floor area; leaving the remainder as a scratch area.
Much like a free range system, organic hens are housed in a structure or barn and are also given constant daytime access to an outside range with natural vegetation. Under organic standards, the allocation of slatted floor in the building must not exceed 50% of the usable floor space, and hens are required to be housed to a maximum stocking density 6 birds per square meter.
In order to receive organic certification from an official body such as the Soil Association, farmers are required to provide additional space for the birds; at least 10 square meters of outside space per hen.
The key similarity with all three of these systems is the indoor space, each bird needs to be able to move and exhibit their natural behaviour in an adequately sized space.
Of course, chicken housing should also be robust enough to provide year-round protection from the elements while being easy to clean and resistant to bird waste, minimising the spread of disease. This can be a massive challenge with large static buildings.
So what are the options?
At McGregor Polytunnels, all of our poultry layer housing is designed to Freedom Foods standards with the added benefit of being fully mobile and modular.
Made from durable PVC roofing and structural grade galvanised steel, these modular polytunnel structures can be specified for each site and flock size, while offering superior resistance to bird waste. The mobility of the buildings enables them to be simply towed to fresh pasture, simplifying the process of mucking out and disinfecting.
Mobile laying houses are ideal for free range and organic egg production, since they provide the ideal high-welfare environment for birds along with flexibility and easy flock management for farmers.
You can explore our range of chicken layer housing by clicking here or give us a call on 01962 657975 to find out more.