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Types of husbandry


3=battery cage


The chickens live in tiny cages, with only 550 cm2 for each bird – less than an A4 sheet of paper. Up to six birds share one cage The cages are arranged in double rows and stacked up to eight levels high. The hens are jammed together, standing on wire mesh, without sunlight and unable to move their feet, spread their wings or take a sand bath.
An EU-wide ban on such cages is planned for 2012, after which only “furnished” cages will be allowed, which provide 750 cm2 of space for each hen. The cages also include a nest for laying, a perch and a “scratching area”. In Germany and the Netherlands, “small group rearing” goes slightly beyond the requirements for furnished cages. This term is misleading for consumers because it gives the impression of comfort for the animals. However, each bird has only 800 cm2 of space (half a beer mat more than before) – and up to 60 chickens are kept in each cage.   All of these types of husbandry use cages where chickens live in inappropriate conditions. “Eggs from small-group rearing” may sound romantic – but it isn’t! Pay attention to the number printed on the egg – ‘3’ stands for cage!!!

© FOUR PAWS | Marcus Mueller

2=barn eggs

Here, nine hens are kept per square meter in massive halls. If several levels of perches and nests for laying are provided, that number can rise to up to 18 hens per m2. Up to 6000 birds can be packed into such a building. This means that the animals have difficulties forming hierarchies and a pecking order, with the result that behaviour disorders such as feather pecking and cannibalism can occur. The stress caused by this jostling is a common form of death for birds reared in this way.

© FOUR PAWS | Marcus Mueller



Free-range chickens have a run of at least 4 m2 per bird for use during the day. Conditions in the stall are the same as those for free-run chickens, and perches, nests for laying and littered scratching areas are also provided. Consequently the hens’ basic needs can be addressed much better than in cages.



Organic rearing also provides a minimum-sized run of 4 m2 and in the stall, a maximum of six chickens can be kept in each square meter. At least one-third of the stall is given over to a littered scratching area, nests and perches, and the stall itself can only house a maximum of 3000 hens. The use of prophylactic medication is forbidden. The main benefit of this type of husbandry is the organic methods used by such companies. For example, this means that the keeping of animals is space-dependent – in other words, only so many animals are kept as can be fed by a particular space and therefore only as much excrement produced as can be absorbed by the ground. Feed is produced without the use of pesticides, synthetic chemical fertilisers or genetic modification.  

Evaluation of types of husbandry

           Litter            Run Environmental friendliness
3 - battery              -               -               -
2 – free-run / barn              +               -               -
1 – free-range
             +               +               -
0 – organic              +               +               +


Egg-free is the most animal-friendly way

Eggs could be left out of most processed products or replaced by other ingredients. This would also help to avoid the sorts of suffering and problems which still occur even in the high-quality animal husbandry. Sexing is an example – Shortly after hatching, the chicks are sorted in males and females. The males are destroyed immediately because they are unable to lay eggs and only suitable for fattening as a result of their breeding.