Chickens being “Cage-free” indicates that the chickens were not kept in cages. Chickens that have access to the outdoors are called “Free-range” chickens. However, there is no guarantee as to how much time the chickens actually spent outside.

What are Cage-free hens?

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picture of Cage-free hens

Cage-free hens, also known as free-range hens, are chickens that are raised without being confined to cages. Unlike conventional egg-laying hens that are typically housed in battery cages, cage-free hens have the freedom to move around within an open barn or a designated outdoor area.

The primary objective of cage-free farming is to provide hens with more space and a more natural environment compared to the restrictive conditions of battery cages. Cage-free systems vary, but they generally offer hens the ability to walk, perch, nest, and engage in other natural behaviors. They have access to fresh air, natural light, and in some cases, outdoor areas where they can roam, scratch the ground, and forage for insects and vegetation.

Cage-free farming is often considered a more humane alternative to conventional egg production because it allows hens to exhibit their natural behaviors and experience a better quality of life. However, it’s important to note that the term “cage-free” does not guarantee that the hens have unlimited space or access to pasture. The specific conditions and standards for cage-free systems can vary, so it’s advisable to look for additional certifications or labels, such as “Certified Humane” or “Pasture Raised,” for more detailed information on the farming practices involved.

What are Free-range hens?

(Photo By Celeste Lindell on Flickr)

picture of Free-range hens

Free-range hens are chickens that are allowed to roam outdoors and have access to open spaces in addition to indoor housing. Similar to cage-free hens, free-range hens are not confined to battery cages and have the freedom to move around. However, the key distinction is that free-range hens have access to the outdoors, whereas cage-free hens may or may not have outdoor access.

In free-range farming systems, hens are provided with indoor shelter, usually in a barn or coop, where they can rest, lay eggs, and seek protection from the elements. Additionally, they have the opportunity to venture outside and explore a designated outdoor area. This outdoor space allows hens to engage in natural behaviors such as foraging, scratching the ground, dust bathing, and socializing with other chickens.

The outdoor area provided for free-range hens must offer suitable conditions for the hens to access pasture and be exposed to fresh air, natural sunlight, and a varied environment. The specific requirements and regulations for free-range systems can vary depending on the country or certification standards in place.

It’s important to note that although free-range farming is intended to provide hens with a more natural and spacious environment, the degree of outdoor access and the conditions of the outdoor area can vary significantly. Some free-range systems may have more limited outdoor space or restrictions based on weather conditions or predator protection. As a consumer, looking for additional certifications or labels such as “Certified Humane” or “Animal Welfare Approved” can provide more information about the specific standards and practices followed in the production of free-range eggs.

Cage-free Vs Free-range?

Cage-free hens are not confined to cages but are typically kept in enclosed barns or warehouses where they have room to roam and nest. Free-range hens are given access to the outdoors, although the amount of time they spend outdoors and the size of the area they have to roam can vary.

Cage-free eggs are produced by hens that are able to roam freely in a large space. They are not confined to small cages like conventional egg-laying hens. This allows them to engage in natural behaviours like nesting, perching, and dust bathing.

Free-range eggs come from hens that have access to the outdoors. They are able to roam freely in pastureland where they can forage for food. Free-range eggs often have a deeper yellow yolk and a richer flavour than cage-free eggs.

The benefits of free-range eggs

Cage-free eggs come from chickens that are not confined to cages, but they may still be kept indoors. Free-range eggs, on the other hand, come from chickens that have access to the outdoors.

So, what are the benefits of free-range eggs? Here are a few:

  1. The hens have more space to move around and exercise, which is important for their overall health.
  2. They have access to sunlight and fresh air, which helps them stay healthy and strong.
  3. They can forage for food, which means they get a more natural diet than hens that are confined to cages.
  4. Because they’re not confined to small spaces, free-range hens tend to be less stressed out than their cage-free counterparts. This results in healthier eggs with less cholesterol and saturated fat.

Which is better?

Cage-free birds have more space to move around and can often fly freely inside their enclosure. This type of setup may be more expensive and require more maintenance than a traditional birdcage, but many bird owners believe it provides a richer environment for their pets.

Free-range birds, on the other hand, have access to an outdoor area where they can fly and explore. This setup can be less expensive than a cage-free setup, but it requires more vigilance on the part of the owner to make sure the bird does not escape.

Ultimately, the best decision for you will depend on your own lifestyle and preferences, as well as those of your pet bird. If you want your bird to have plenty of space to move around and explore, a free-range environment may be the best option. If you are looking for a more economical option or are concerned about your bird escaping, then a cage-free setup may be better suited to your needs.

How to know which eggs to buy

If you want to buy cage-free eggs, look for the words “cage-free” or “uncaged” on the carton. These terms indicate that the hens were able to move freely inside an open area during their laying cycle. Additionally, the USDA requires producers of certified organic eggs to provide cage-free housing for their hens.

To ensure that your eggs are truly cage-free, you can also buy them from a local farmer whose practices you trust. When buying eggs from a farmer’s market or farm stand, ask the vendor how the hens are raised. If they are unable to tell you or if they say the hens are “cage-free” but cannot verify it, it’s best to find another source.


Featured Image By – Autumn Mott Rodeheaver on Unsplash

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