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Free hens from cages

Our work Animals in Aotearoa Hens kept in cages

Hens deserve better

Hens are intelligent, inquisitive, and socially complex animals with many natural behavioural needs. In an outdoor environment, a hen will spend her day scratching at the ground, searching for food, dust bathing, stretching her wings, and basking in the sun. These gentle birds deserve kindness, compassion, and the freedom to live a life worth living. Sadly, over 2.3 million hens are kept in overcrowded wire cages for their entire lives, right here in Aotearoa.

Take action for hens

It's time to empty the cages

Your actions can make a huge difference for the millions of hens living in cramped, unnatural conditions on intensive farms. Take action now to free hens from cages in New Zealand.

The egg industry

Of the 4.1 million hens farmed for their eggs in New Zealand, 2.3 million are kept in cages.

Battery cages, which house about a third of the national flock (1.1 million hens), will be illegal in New Zealand from 31 December 2022. Colony cages will however remain legal, despite the vast majority of New Zealanders opposing them, and many countries around the world banning them.

A 2020 Colmar Brunton survey found that 76% of Kiwis polled did not support the caging of hens. Thousands of New Zealand businesses have taken a stand against caged hen farming by pledging to remove cage eggs from their supply chains.

Life inside a colony cage

Hidden behind closed doors, inside large, windowless sheds, thousands of colony cages are stacked to the ceiling in rows. The cages are crowded, with up to 80 hens in each cage, meaning each bird only has space the size of an A4 piece of paper in which to live out her life. With so little space, the hens can’t stretch their wings, move around freely, express their normal behaviour or comfortably rest.

Every day is the same for a hen in a colony cage. She will wait her turn to lay in the crowded corner designated as the 'nest area,' a rubber matt covered in excrement. She will then try to compete with the other hens for space on the cold, slippery metal perches or maybe peck or try dig on the 'scratch pad', a small rubber square.

At around 18 months of age, just a fraction of their natural lifespan of up to ten years, hens will be removed from the cages by the farm workers, have their necks broken and be disposed of.

There are currently over 1.2 million hens living in colony cages, right here in Aotearoa.

She deserves better

The physical health of caged hens is frequently poor. Disease, parasites, severe feather loss and brittle bones weakened from lack of movement are just some of the serious health conditions these birds may experience.

Overcrowded conditions can cause hens to experience anxiety, stress, boredom, and fear. This can lead to aggressive behaviour like pecking, feather pulling, and cannibalism. With nowhere to hide from aggressive cage mates, submissive, sick or injured hens will have to endure unnecessary pain and fear in these cages.

Lighting within sheds is kept dim to minimise aggression, and the birds have the tips of their sensitive beaks removed without pain relief to reduce their ability to peck others.

The world is leaving colony cages behind

Around the world, hens are being spared from a lifetime in cages by progressive politicians.

Colony cages have been banned or are being phased out in parts of Europe, including Switzerland, Luxembourg, Germany, Denmark, Slovakia, Austria, the Czech Republic and the Walloon Region of Belgium. In the United States, nine states have already banned the sale and production of cage eggs.

In June of 2021, the EU Commission announced plans to ban the caging of farmed animals by 2027. A move that will free over 300 million animals from cages across the EU.

It’s time for New Zealand to put the chicken before the egg

New Zealand’s leaders know Kiwis care about hens. In 2014 and 2017, the Labour Party promised to ban colony cages. The Green Party of Aotearoa has also committed to free hens from cages.

Hens need us to demand positive change for hens from our politicians.

Together, we will free hens from cages.

SAFE is a member organisation of the Open Wing Alliance, a global coalition of organisations united with a common goal: to free hens from cages worldwide.

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As a charity, SAFE is reliant on the support of caring people like you to carry out our valuable work. Every gift goes towards providing education, undertaking research and campaigning for the benefit of all animals. SAFE is a registered charity in New Zealand (CC 40428). Contributions of $5 or more are tax-deductible.