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Welfare of Hens and Registration

Standards for the protection of laying hens

There are minimum standards for the protection of laying hens set out in egg legislation.

This legislation does not apply to establishments with fewer than 350 laying hens or to establishments rearing breeding laying hens.  

This covers, among other things:

  • the types of rearing systems allowed;
  • how much space must be given to the birds;
  • water, feed and light requirements.

It details three types of rearing systems for laying hens: 

  • enriched cages;
  • non-enriched cage systems;
  • non-cage systems.

The rearing of hens in 'non-enriched' cage systems is now prohibited (since 1 January 2012).  

Registration of establishments keeping laying hens

All egg production units must be registered with the competent authorities in Member States. They must each have a distinguishing number which will be used to trace eggs back to the farm where they were produced. 

Commission Directive 2002/4/EC (this opens in a new tab) sets out rules on the registration of establishments keeping laying hens. It also requires the use of the following codes for the different farming methods (rules for these farming methods are detailed in Commission Regulation (EC) 589/2008) (this opens in a new tab)

1 = 'Free range eggs'
2 = 'Barn eggs'
3 = 'Eggs from caged hens'

For organic production, you can use the terms sets out in Article 23 of Council Regulation (EC) 834/2007 (this opens in a new tab) on organic food production, provided all of the requirements of that legislation are met.