Banning Battery Cages for Hens

Orange Yolks

Eggs with Orange Yolks

by Catherine Haug, August 6, 2011

(photo by Keith Blaylock)

I just returned from a trip to Portland and was excited to learn that the Oregon legislature passed SB 805 with overwhelming bipartisan support, and was signed into law on June 17. This law, similar to legislation proposed at the national level (see U.S. Egg Industry & HSUS Collaborate on Federal Legislation for Battery Hens) “sets comprehensive animal care standards for hens,” according to the Oregon Humane Society (2). Will our Montana legislature follow suit?

The new Oregon law:

  • Outlaws “battery cages” that confined birds to tiny enclosures;’
  • Mandates more space for hens;
  • Mandates a standard of care that covers nutrition, ventilation, lighting and waste management;
  • Phases in a “Enriched Colony System” of hen housing and animal care;
  • Establishes a certification program that will provide the nation’s strongest welfare standards for commercial layer birds;
  • Requires that hens have enough room to stand up, turn around, spread their wings and access perches, nesting boxes and scratching areas.

Meanwhile, unless you raise your own chickens, your best bet is to buy your eggs from local families who give their hens free access to pasture. The best test of a free-range hen is the color of its egg’s yolk:

  • pale yellow means the hen was not given adequate access to pasture and was fed a totally vegetarian diet
  • rich yellow-orange means the hen had adequate access to pasture, insects and worms – a more natural diet for poultry.

For more information


  1. Humane Connection Blog: U.S. Egg Industry & HSUS Collaborate on Federal Legislation for Battery Hens
  2. Oregon Humane Society Magazine, Summer 2011
  3. Oregon Live: Oregon’s Hen Legislation Becomes National Model

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