Fast Facts on Battery Cages in Canada

Humane Society International

  • Animals are living beings, not production machines. HSI

Did you know?

  • There are approximately 26 million laying hens in Canada. Most of them are kept confined in cramped, barren cages.
  • Battery cages were designed in the 1940s to maximize production and lower animal care costs as a response to the growing demand for eggs.
  • Currently, Canadian hens do not enjoy any protection from animal cruelty legislation. As farm animals, they are exempt from both Provincial and Federal Cruelty to Animals Acts.
  • Battery cages are about 51 cm deep and 61 cm wide. Each cage holds around six hens, giving each hen less space than an average piece of writing paper to live her entire life.
  • A hen requires 600 cm2 to lie down comfortably, and 2000 cm2 to freely flap her wings. In a typical battery cage, a hen has access to between 432 cm2 and 483 cm2 of space.
  • Her lack of space means a hen confined in a cage will never flap her wings, cannot lie down without touching her cage mates, will never peck at the ground for food, or roll in a dust bath—something hens do for pleasure.
  • A hen confined in a battery cage will never lay her egg in a nest—her strongest instinct.
  • Studies have shown that a hen will work just as hard to access a secluded nesting area as she will to access food and water.
  • Hens naturally forage for food—when given the opportunity, they spend up to 50 percent of their time pecking and scratching at the ground. A battery hen is allocated 10 cm per bird of feeding space in a trough outside her cage.
  • Egg laying hens and broiler chickens (chickens raised for meat) are genetically different. This means that male chicks have no value in the egg industry. They are killed a few days after hatching.
  • Most hens have their beaks partially sliced off without pain relief medication when they are a few days old to control the aggressive behaviours that can evolve as a result of the stress of intensive confinement.
  • Chickens naturally live for about six or seven years. However, an egg-laying hen is usually slaughtered after about 12 months.
  • A battery hen can lay up to 320 eggs in the first year after she begins to lay, but shortly after this her productivity begins to drop. She is then slaughtered for chicken by-products or compost.

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Learn more about egg labels in Canada.