The majority of pastured egg producers use mobile housing of one sort or another to accommodate their free range layer hens. Producers need to be aware that the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals - Domestic Poultry, sets out the guidelines for the welfare of free range hens as well as caged or indoor reared birds. Just having birds roaming freely in their environment does not exclude you from being compliant with the Code.
Whether you are building your own mobile hen houses or have opted for a ready made caravan or shed, there are some important clauses in the Code that you need to be aware of. Unfortunately, some newcomers to the industry assume that because they are purchasing a ready made unit that it will automatically be Code compliant and produced to meet industry best practice when this is not always the case.
A lot of compliance issues can be resolved simply by not locking hens into housing that does not have appropriate space and leaving the structures open. We talk more about space in another section. We have summarized some of the important areas of the Code that you need to be aware of in relation to hen housing:
This is what indoor housing stocking densities look like at the maximum allowed under the Model Code of Practice (30kg of birds per sq metre). What you must understand is that these sheds also have mechanical ventilation, fans and extractors. Hen welfare would be seriously compromised without it.
Do you lock your hens in a shed at night? How many birds are in the space available to them?
The Model Code is the minimum requirements for the welfare of your hens. The PROOF standards go a little further and address issues that cause concern, especially those that consumers care most about. You will find the PROOF Standards here..