Housing - Layer hens

There are several different housing systems for layer hens including intensive indoor cage systems (battery cages), furnished cages, barns and free range. Though each system has strengths and weaknesses, hens in battery cages experience extreme confinement and behavioural restriction, and poor muscle and bone strength. Hens in battery cages are unable to walk, scratch, flap their wings, perch or lay their eggs in a nest. Many countries are already phasing out battery cages.   Due to overwhelming scientific evidence that layer hens suffer in battery cages, the RSPCA opposes the keeping of layer hens in battery cages and advocates for a phase-out, backed by legislation, in Australia.

For more information on layer hens visit the RSPCA Knowledgebase.


Housing - Meat chickens

Meat chickens (broilers) are genetically very different to layer hens and are generally raised in either barn or free-range systems. The management of broilers should adhere to the RSPCA Approved Farming Standards for meat chickens. The Standards refer to factors that can affect animal welfare such as stocking density (how many birds in a given area), light and dark periods, litter management, perches and environmental enrichment,. The RSPCA is currently working with other stakeholders to improve the welfare standards of broiler chickens under the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry.

For more information on meat chickens visit the RSPCA Knowledgebase.

For more information on broiler chickens visit the RSPCA Knowledgebase.

Poultry handling

When handling poultry, it is important to consider their welfare and appropriate ways to catch, restrain and carry birds. Handling techniques such as grabbing birds by the legs and carrying them upside down are not considered best practice. There are much better ways to handle birds for example lift a chicken with both hands gently around their wings and body keeping the chicken upright. Tossing, throwing or purposely dropping birds to the ground is not acceptable. 


Preparing poultry for transport

Before transporting birds you should consider the type of container, how secure it is and how easy it is to open and retrieve birds. Maintaining good hygiene is also an important part of ensuring the well-being of animals so containers should be able to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after each use. All animals should be checked prior to loading to ensure they are fit to load i.e. no significant illness or injuries which will compromise their welfare. If birds are not fit to load they should be treated or humanely killed as appropriate. These requirements and considerations apply to large commercial producers as well as individuals purchasing and transporting birds from markets or private sales.


Poultry transport

Chickens, ducks and other birds must be transported appropriately. Birds must not be carried or held in the boot of a car or under conditions when the temperature may exceed 30°C. This is because they are very sensitive to extreme temperatures. Very young birds are susceptible to the cold and should be kept warm. Stocking density (number of birds in a given area) must also be considered as overcrowding can also be very stressful for birds and lead to further issues such as aggression and traumatic injuries.

RSPCA Australia are currently involved in the development of the National Standards and Guidelines for Poultry and were involved in the development of the Standards and Guidelines in Livestock Transport which includes poultry. However, Western Australia remains the only state not to regulate the Transport Standards and the RSPCA recommends this be undertaken as soon as possible.