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Mobile Hen Housing 

What you need to know about mobile chicken sheds, caravans, tractors and housing

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:

The PROOF Standards for Pastured Layer Hens

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..
  • Slats in flooring should not exceed a gap of 25mm to prevent damage to the feet and legs of the bird.
  • Perches should allow 15cm of space per hen.  The space between the perches should be at least 30cm but not more than 1 metre.  There should also be 20cm between the wall and a perch.
  • One single next box is needed for each 7 hens.  When colony nests are used (continuous nesting box such as the type with egg collection conveyor belts) need at least 1 sq metre of space per 120 hens.
  • All birds must have ready access to an outdoor range for a minimum of 8 hours of daylight
  • Birds on the range must have ready access to shaded areas and shelter from rain with windbreaks where necessary
  • 3.2  The stocking density will also depend on the type of housing and its capacity to maintain acceptable levels of temperature, humidity, air exchange, removal of noxious gases and lighting.
  • 4.2 All feeding and watering systems must be checked every day
  • 6.2 Sheds should be maintained  with relative humidity below 80% especially at temperatures above 30 degrees C
  • 6.3 Housing facilities of free range hens must be designed to ensure adequate airflow and temperature control at maximum stocking densities when birds cluster or perch at night or during extreme weather conditions
  • 7.2.1 In hot weather provision of adequate cool water and ventilation is essential and birds must have access to shade
  • 7.2.3 To prevent birds from overheating in hot weather, space must be available to facilitate body heat loss, such as panting, vibrating the floor of the mouth cavity ('gular flutter'), standing erect with wings held away from the body and raising of the scapular feathers.
  • 7.2.4 In the case of layers and where no mechanical ventilation is provided, and conditions would adversely effect the welfare of the bird, mechanical ventilation and cooling must be provided. Temperatures in the shed should not exceed 33 degrees C
  • 10.6 Each bird must have access to at least two independent drinking points.  The cup under a nipple drinker is not an independent drinking point
  • 11.2  A thorough welfare inspection of the hens must be performed every day
  • 12.3 Poultry producers should operate an effective program to prevent infectious disease and internal and external parasites. (we mention this here because the subject of vaccination is approached in some ready made models of sheds)
  • A2.1.2 The Code allows for an indoor stocking density of approximately 30kg of bird per sq metre, but, these densities only apply to  housing with cooling systems and ventilation fans in place to manage temperature in extreme conditions. Lower stocking rates will be needed when these systems are not in place
  • A2.2.1 Water space requirements: maximum of 120 birds per bell drinker or maximum 20 birds per drinker nipple

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 PROOF Standards for Pastured Layer Hens

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..

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The opinions, advice and information contained in this website have not been provided at the request of any person but are offered by  PROOF and Australian Pig Farmers solely for informational purposes. While the information provided has been formulated in good faith, it should not be relied on as a substitute for professional advice. Australian Pig Farmers, PROOF or do not accept liability in respect of any action taken by any person in reliance on the content of this publication.

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