The Colony system of egg production is an improved intensive cage housing system which provides the opportunity for hens to express a range of natural behaviours including nesting, scratching, perching and stretching their wings.
Each Colony cage can house up to 60 hens and it is similar to an “open-plan” home in which hens have access to the full area of the cage, with room to move and interact socially with other hens.
Colonies are equipped with “furnishings” including nest boxes and scratch pads, and have reserved areas for nesting where most hens will lay their eggs each morning. Perching areas are available for resting and hens also use these at night. The ability to control environment and temperature protects the hens from extremes of weather and other outdoor stresses.
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 Colony egg farming.
In its separate report accompanying the release of the Code of Welfare 2012, the members of NAWAC stated unanimously that Colony systems provide an overall level of welfare that is equivalent to Barn and Free-Range production systems.