The Animal Welfare (Layer Hens) Code of Welfare 2012, updated in 2018, sets out the standards of care and management for layer hens in New Zealand. It has been specifically reviewed and recommended by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), a group of welfare experts who provide independent advice to the Ministry for Primary Industries, and ratified by the Minister for Primary Industries. It replaces the previous 2005 Code and is one of many Codes specific to a farming type or species that support the overarching Animal Welfare Act 1999. The current code is due for review, which is expected to commence in 2023.
The current Code is specific in its requirements of farmers and includes new detailed sections on colony farming, range management for free-range farming, natural animal behaviour, and the handling, catching and transport of layer hens and chicks.
Importantly, the Code also identifies good stockmanship as the key to good welfare, a position the EPF fully endorses through farmer education and support activity.
Specific provisions of the new Code include:
- Conventional cages: to be phased out by the end of 2022.
- Colony cage systems: detailed standards on housing, including requirements for nest and scratch areas and individual perch spaces.
- Barns: detailed standards on individual perch and nesting spaces, and the provision of feed and water.
- Free-range: additional requirements for outdoor shelter and maximum stocking densities to ensure the essence of free-range.
As part of the review and development process for the new Code, NAWAC scientifically evaluated colony cage systems as providing equivalent welfare to barn and free-range systems.
NAWAC Welfare Code Report: NAWAC’s reasons for recommendations in the new Code, including colonies.