Meet our hens
The majority of commercial layer hens in New Zealand are either the Hyline Brown or Brown Shaver variety. Both are brown-feathered with some white plumage, especially in the tail. Brown hens lay brown eggs.
These hens will lay around one egg each day from the age of 18 weeks and are capable of laying until up to 90 weeks of age.
The care and wellbeing of layer hens is a top priority for farmers and is governed by the Animal Welfare (Layer Hens) Code of Welfare 2012.
In New Zealand, layer hens may be in colonies, barns or free-range.
Like many birds, hens have evolved from jungle fowl and this heritage still influences their behavioural traits today. Layer hens naturally flock and follow a pecking order, or hierarchy, within their group. They are also wary of wide-open spaces where they may feel vulnerable to predators; they prefer sheltered housing or ranges with trees and shrubbery.
In New Zealand, around 3.5 million (as at December 2022) commercial layer hens are produced each year. Their breeding is managed by poultry breeding companies to ensure the hens are the best they can be and to keep up with international genetic developments.
Strict quarantine and breeding regulations are in place to help maintain our country’s superior disease-free status. Every year or two the eggs of breeding stock from two major international companies are imported to New Zealand by our hatching industry, under supervision of the Ministry for Primary Industries. These hatchlings will be the grandparents of the eventual layer hens: they will breed the parent stock, which will then breed the third generation of layer hens used in New Zealand egg farms.