A laying hen‘s natural lifespan is 7-9 years. Laying hens on egg farms usually live for only 12-18 months.
Laying hens live in flocks. They seek contact with other individuals of their species. They like to spread their wings, to dust bathe, to explore and express foraging behaviour like ground pecking and scratching. They also like to nest.
Why do we keep them as farm animals
We keep laying hens to produce eggs.
How do laying hens live on farms
Laying hens are raised in intensive production systems, which means that birds are kept indoors. The goal is the fastest and the most efficient possible production, i.e. maximum utilisation of animals.
Several laying hens are confined together in tiny cages which do not allow them a freedom of movement. Their wings are clipped in order to save space, the beaks are often trimmed to prevent injury and self-injury (which may develop as a result of unnatural living conditions and are a form of abnormal behavour – stereotypies). Problems with legs are common due to wire mesh floors which are easier to clean, but can cause leg and foot injuries and disorders. Cages are placed in several levels, one above the others (so called battery cages). Egg production systems that involve battery cages for laying hens are widely used in Serbia. European union has prohibited battery cages, and the prohibition came into force in 2012.
Even though laying hens are herbivores, other than plant based feedstuffs such as corn, wheat, sunflower and soybean seeds, they are also fed animal based concentrates based on fish meal or meat and bone meal. The reason for this kind of nutrition is that animal protein feed give more energy to the hens and enable laying more eggs.
This kind of intensive utilisation of animals leads to hens starting to show signs of exhaustion after 18 months, and also signs of decrease laying ability and increase in illnesses, which is why the common practice is to remove them for slaughter at this time, and repopulate the building with the new flock of hens.
Naturally hens lay on their eggs warming them until the chick hatch. Eggs on farms are in the incubator. After hatching, the chicks are transported to breeding farms where they stay for several weeks. Young hens are then transported to egg farms as soon as they are old enough to lay eggs.
DID YOU KNOW?
Hens have a strong need for nesting prior to laying eggs. The need is so strong that hens in experimental conditions have been known to overcome elaborate set of barriers just to get to the place where they can build their nest.