Earlier this year The Agriculture and Forestry Ministry (MAF) released its findings from a survey of 60 poultry farms around New Zealand. It found both caged and cage-free egg farmng had advantages and issues. Feather loss was worse in cages; however mortality rates were more prevalent in all non-cage systems. Stress levels were similar regardless of the housing system.
In June of this year, a Clemson University animal behaviorist announced the beginning of research on the impact cages and other confinement have on the development and well-being of hens.
More studies are underway which may help counter attacks on producers by HSUS and other zealots.
Researchers ask: Are caged chickens miserable?The Associated Press
Date: Friday Nov. 20, 2009 9:48 AM ET
DES MOINES, Iowa — Are cramped chickens crazy chickens?
Researchers are trying to answer that question through several studies that intend to take emotions out of an angry debate between animal welfare groups and producers.
At issue are small cages, typically 24 inches wide by 25 1/2 inches deep, that can be shared by up to nine hens. About 96 per cent of eggs sold in the United States come from hens who live in the so-called battery cages from the day they're born until their egg-laying days end 18 to 24 months later.
Public opinion appears to side with those who oppose the cages. Voters in California approved a proposition last year that bans cramped cages for hens. And Michigan's governor signed legislation last month requiring confined animals to have enough room to turn around and fully extend their limbs.
Peter Skewes, a Clemson University researcher, is leading one of the studies comparing how different housing affects egg-laying hens. He said there are plenty of "emotional" opinions about whether the cages are inhumane, but few are based on facts.
"Hopefully we will contribute something so decisions can be made based on science and knowledge about how we house birds and the implications for different systems," said Skewes, who is in the early stages of a three-year study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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