What is Enriched Colony Housing?

This article was posted by emoralesneyra on May 16th, 2024

A question we are often asked is where our hens live. Just like you select the type of eggs to buy in the store, our farmers put great effort into selecting how they want to house their hens. There is no right or wrong answer as all housing systems that are used in Ontario are designed with animal welfare in mind.

As hen housing evolved over time, the enriched colony system was introduced. This system provides the benefits of the older housing styles, but includes new enhancements to maximize animal welfare and hen health.

Some of the features of enriched housing includes:

  • More space to move around

  • Perches

  • Scratch pads

  • Private nest boxes

Enriched housing places hens into smaller social groups of about 30 to 60 hens to reduce some aggressive hen behaviors, such as pecking that is sometimes seen in larger hen groups. It helps to reduce disease as the hens are separated from their manure which can carry bacteria, pathogens and attract rodents. Since hens are housed indoors, they are not directly exposed to predators, wild birds and disease that can lead to high flock mortality.

With less risk of disease comes better food safety and less need for veterinary care. Since eggs in enriched systems do not come into contact with manure, they are cleaner and safer. 

Not a one-dimensional decision

As a 5th generation egg farmer, Niagara-area egg farmer Chris Mullet Koop has seen hen care evolve over time and says that making the decision about how to house his hens considered many variables.

“When we make choices about what we are going to use for our hens, it’s not a one-dimensional issue. We need to consider food safety, hen care, health and welfare, the environment, what are the energy needs and what kind of impact is this going to make on the environment, the economics and food affordability and also worker safety is an important part of our decision-making process,” said Chris.

“So, in the end, a healthy bird means a healthy, nutritious, safe, affordable egg.”

No matter the type of hen housing, Ontario egg farmers always ensure that their hens are cared for with the highest standard of animal care. Choice in the egg section of your grocery store means all Ontarians, no matter their budget or preference, can access the type of eggs they enjoy.

To learn more about enriched housing, visit https://www.getcracking.ca/enriched-colony.