5 ways to keep hens happy

If you’ve ever spent any time with chickens, you’ll know that they are social, curious creatures. And like all animals, they’re at their happiest when they can express their natural behaviours. So how can farmers ensure that these bright birds are living their best lives?

To answer this question, we turned to Morry Wroby from Happy Chicken Eggs. A family-owned farming business, Happy Chicken Eggs is passionate about ensuring their hens have a good life worth living. The team at Happy Chicken Eggs really care about producing humanely farmed eggs for customers to enjoy and are proud to be part of the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme.

“As egg producers, we are always striving for the best possible egg,” says Morry. “And happy chickens lay happy eggs.”

Here, we share Happy Chicken Eggs’ top five tips for keeping happy hens.

Let them mingle
Chickens are very social. Giving them the space and opportunity to socialise is one great way to let them express themselves. Not only do they enjoy mixing with each other, many also enjoy spending time with humans! At Happy Chicken Eggs, the hens love accompanying the farm managers around the range as they go about their day to day jobs.

“We have one chook named Joanne who has made best friends with our farm manager,’ reveals Morry. “She is often found perching in the house, and they spend time sharing breakfast together – they’re both fans of natural muesli.”

Another chicken is so taken with one of Happy Chicken Eggs’ staff members that she’s learned how to climb over the fence and make her way into the office. Word is that she loves to watch her human colleague work away on the computer – and sometimes even jumps up to sit on her lap!

Encourage play
Happy Chicken Eggs farms know chooks are inquisitive creatures and make the most of this by giving them access to big hay bales, shade structures and climbing platforms.

“Their favourite structures are those where they can gather and play together in groups,” Morry says.

Happy Chicken Eggs also provide plenty of activities and toys to keep their hens entertained. Not only do they hang colourful chains and CDs from the roofs of their barns (chickens love bright shiny things) they also lay out marble mazes to keep them occupied.

“Believe it or not, they enjoy pecking, pushing and chasing balls around the place!” says Morry.

Give them plenty of space
Happy Chicken Eggs farms are all free range, housing a maximum of 1,500 birds per hectare. But Morry is quick to stress that there’s more to happiness than just having access to the outdoors. To stay healthy, birds need room to roam.

The team at Happy Chicken Eggs pride themselves on providing ‘enriched ranges’ for their hens to explore. Each farm is dotted with adventure playground structures, activity games, perching spots and ample shaded areas – all designed to complement the hens’ natural instincts to wander, roost, dustbathe, perch and peck.

Provide shelter
At night, the hens on Happy Chicken Eggs farms retire to their barns, seeking a protected place to roost and rest.

“Sleep-time means perch time,” explains Morry, “Hens have an instinctive need to feel safe in order to enjoy good shut-eye. They often sleep in groups and by perching up high, they feel safe.”

Not only do hens need somewhere to sleep at night, it’s also important that there are places where they can take cover from the elements when they’re out on the range during the day. At Happy Chicken Eggs, the farms have plenty of shade – whether beneath trees or under custom-built structures, there’s always somewhere the hens can retreat to when it gets a bit too hot.

Go cage-free
After reading about the adventures the hens on Happy Chicken Eggs farms have every day, it might seem obvious that one of the top tips to keeping them happy is avoiding battery cages. But with more than 11 million hens still living in battery cages in Australia, it’s an important point to make.

While all housing systems have their advantages and disadvantages, research has shown that a hen’s needs simply cannot be met by being confined in a battery cage. Chickens need space to move, stretch, flap their wings, nest and dust bathe – and that’s just not possible in a cage.

“At Happy Chicken Eggs, we’re 100 per cent cage-free 100 hundred per cent of the time,” says Morry. “That’s our commitment to you, and our commitment to the future.”

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Watch our video of hens on Happy Chicken Eggs farm in action.

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Amanda @ RSPCA Written by:

Amanda is a book nerd and an animal lover. While she’s still only learning about the world of humane food, she’s keen to help others find out more about it too.

8 Comments

  1. Vicky Smith
    August 30, 2017
    Reply

    I am interested in using your eggs, where can I buy them South of Perth,
    I am not sure if you sell from certain supermarkets.
    Thankyou so much

    • Jess @ RSPCA
      August 30, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks for your question Vicky – have you searched the directory on http://www.rspcaapproved.org.au? On the RSPCA Approved website you can search your area and find the nearest stockist for RSPCA Approved products. Happy Chicken Eggs are available in Coles supermarkets.

  2. Val Maslen
    August 30, 2017
    Reply

    Hi Jess, I am concerned you don’t mention a ratio of hens per sq hectare. The CSIRO say that 1,500 hens per sq hectare is sustainable and 10,000 is not and will cause many health problems what number are you approving? United Kingdom has passed a standard of 2,500 so I hope RSPCA is not approving the unsustainable. I do so appreciate your role in animal welfare but I worry the large egg industry may influence you. Could you fill me in.
    Sincere best wishes,

    • Jess @ RSPCA
      August 31, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks for your question Val – the RSPCA’s standards for layer hens specify a max stocking density of 1,500 birds/ha if the range (outdoor) area is fixed and up to 2,500 birds/ha if there are rotational range management strategies in place. You’ll also see that the RSPCA called for free range hens to be stocked at a max rate of 1,500 birds/ha in the recent free range egg labeling standard. It’s important to note that good animal welfare relies upon a combination of factors, not just stocking density and outdoor access – that’s why it’s so important to get the indoors right, including good stockmanship and management, appropriate housing, and the ability to meet the animal’s behavioural needs.

  3. August 31, 2017
    Reply

    How can I stop my daytime free range chooks from decimating my expensive plants on my deck. the three of them are happy and mix with my husband and I and our spoodle dog. But the minute they’re left outside they start attacking my plants. I’m pretty sure they want to come inside and I’m not having that, thanks.They’re well feed and get fresh lettuce each night.Fresh warer each day and plenty of good layer mash. Getting exasperated,ant ideas?

    • Jess @ RSPCA
      September 4, 2017
      Reply

      That’s a tough one Vivienne – you could perhaps try covering your plants to protect them and provide additional enrichment for your chooks, such additional scraps.

  4. Greg
    September 4, 2017
    Reply

    Was this farm approved at 3,,500 as shown on their cartons. It seems a bit misleading to call for 1,500 in the standards and to tell the community that you max is 2,500 when you approved a farm at 3,500.

    • Jess @ RSPCA
      September 4, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks for your question Greg – exemptions to specific standards on particular sites may be granted on rare occasions, but only where the RSPCA can see that animal welfare is not compromised.

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