While the majority of New Zealand’s eggs are currently farmed in conventional cages, these are due to be phased out of use by 2022. Under the Animal Welfare (Layer Hens) Code of Welfare 2012, farmers cannot install new conventional cages and must begin decommissioning existing conventional cages (depending on their age) from 2018.
Keeping hens in cages does offer benefits, allowing large-scale and efficient egg farming while achieving far fewer animal health problems compared to other farming types. This is largely due to the high animal hygiene standards that can be achieved through the mechanised delivery of feed and removal of manure. The ability to control environment and temperature protects the hens from extremes of weather and other outdoor stresses.
Mechanised egg collection and efficient use of land also help to conventional cage farming less costly, allowing eggs to be supplied to consumers at a lower price and making high quality protein affordable for all New Zealanders.
The NZ egg industry recognises the limits that conventional cages place on the natural behaviour of hens and research into alternatives has led to the adoption of the Colony system. Colonies retain the advantages of cage farming, including helping maintain the affordability of eggs, while creating the opportunity for hens to move around and express a range of natural behaviours.
The Animal Welfare (Layer Hens) Code of Welfare 2012 sets out the standards of care and management for layer hens in New Zealand. It includes specific standards for Cage Egg farming.