There are four main systems for keeping laying hens in the EU. In 2018, half of the EU’s hens were kept in enriched cages – cages equipped with perches, nests, scratching areas and nail shorteners, which replaced the conventional battery cages banned by the EU in 2012. The other half were kept in cage-free egg production systems: either barns, free-range or organic rearing systems (see Figure 3). Barns are large enclosures with litter on the floor and freedom of movement for the birds within the poultry house. Free-range systems are similar to barn systems with access to an outdoor run.
The UK, Ireland and Austria have the highest shares of laying hens kept in free range systems, while Denmark and Sweden are the countries with the highest shares of hens reared according to organic methods.