What Are Barn-Laid Eggs?
Barn-laid eggs, sometimes also called cage-free eggs, are produced in a farming system that allows the hens to wander freely within a shed. Barn-laid eggs make up 10 percent of supermarket egg purchases in Australia.
As with all egg production systems, barn-laid egg farming has both benefits and disadvantages. Australians Eggs works hard to shed light on the industry and eliminate misconceptions about barn-laid egg farming.
How Are Barn-Laid Eggs Produced?
Barn-laid eggs are laid by hens that are housed in large, climate-controlled sheds without cages. The hens are able to roam freely within the shed, socialising and perching, without the threat of outdoor predators or exposure to the elements.
The large commercial sheds used to produce barn-laid eggs can be more than 100 metres long, 25 metres wide and contain up to 30,000 hens. These sheds are typically multi-tiered so birds can move vertically and use the whole cubic air space inside. The floors can be hard surfaces covered in organic litter like rice hulls or sawdust, or slats or wire mesh.
The hens lay their eggs in nest boxes with a gentle tilt to them so the fragile eggs roll onto a conveyor belt. There are also automatic manure belts that remove chicken manure to storage bins to be packed and used as a natural fertiliser.
Feed and water is located in the middle of the system where the hens feel safe and secure.
Free Range vs Barn-Laid Eggs: What's The Difference?
There are many similarities between free range and barn-laid farming in terms of the shed structure and indoor environment. In both systems, hens are able to roam freely in a shed equipped with nest boxes, automatic feeding and watering systems, and perches.
The main difference between barn and free range is that in a free range system, hens are given the opportunity to roam outdoors during daylight hours, whereas barn hens are kept indoors at all times.
No one system is better than the other. A well-managed barn can answer a hen’s behavioural needs just as well as a free range facility. Hen welfare has less to do with the type of production system and more to do with the management of the farm itself.
Want to see a barn-laid egg farm for yourself? Australian Eggs invites you to take an inside look a barn-laid egg farm in the video below.
Are Barn-Laid or Cage-Free Eggs More Expensive?
Barn-laid eggs are cheaper than free range but more expensive than cage eggs.
Barn-laid and free range eggs are generally more expensive than cage eggs for a number of reasons. More land is needed to house the hens, more farm workers are needed to look after the flock, productivity is slightly lower in cage-free systems and more veterinary care is needed to treat sick hens.
What Are the Advantages & Disadvantages of Barn-Laid Eggs?
The welfare benefits of barn egg farming are included below, however, as with any egg production system, there are disadvantages as well as benefits. These include:
|Hens are protected from the threat of predators and the outdoor elements||A greater occurrence of manure-borne diseases and parasites|
|Hens are able to move freely inside the shed||Greater difficulty identifying and treating sick hens|
|Hens can enjoy increased social interaction with others in larger flocks||A higher likelihood of injury among the flock due to feather-pecking and infighting|
|Furnishings within many barn systems allow hens to practice natural behaviours such as nesting, perching, and dust bathing||A less stable pecking order due to the size of the flock|
See inside a Real barn-laid egg farm
After researching egg farming in Australia, you may like to see a farm for yourself. Australian Eggs invites you to take a virtual tour of a barn-laid farm below. In this 360º video, you can click, drag and move your phone to look around different parts of the barn-laid facility.
Looking for more? Take a full virtual tour of three different egg farms here. In the 360º tour you can go inside a shed, compare barn-laid, free range and cage, and see the quality control that goes into egg collection, washing, grading and packing.
Learn More About Egg Farming
There are many myths and misconceptions about egg farming practices in Australia. Australian Eggs is dedicated to delivering accurate information to help people understand how the industry works.