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How long will battery hens live?

PUBLISHED: 17:58 25 April 2014 | UPDATED: 21:07 29 April 2014

I am thinking of taking on some ex-battery hens. How old are they when they come out of the battery cages and how long will they live after that, on average? I would love to see them grow their feathers and enjoy a free-range life.

Q - I am thinking of taking on some ex-battery hens. How old are they when they come out of the battery cages and how long will they live after that, on average? I would love to see them grow their feathers and enjoy a free-range life

Shelley Carter,


via email

A - The desire to give these hard-working hens a better life is admirable and it is indeed a joy to see them discovering the real outdoors with a new set of clothes. However, in order to maintain continuity of supply and profit in battery cages, the hens are 72 weeks when the flock is culled and replaced. Therefore, these birds are selected for very high production in a short space of time, meaning that some of them are worn out when they are 72 weeks old and some will continue laying for a while. Some will live longer than others, and egg peritonitis, which can be fatal, is common due to the high production. So the average life of an ex-bat could be from two to 12 months; some may do better. As of 2011, battery cages have to be enriched with a perch and nestbox and the space increased,so instead of having an A4-size area per bird, it will be increased (by removing one from the cage) to half as much again. Some EU countries are digging in their heels and say they cannot change by next year. If they are allowed more time to change, continuing to use the old battery cages, it will penalise our industry which has financially prepared for the new legislation. Beware cheap imported eggs!

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