The final 2017 Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pullets and Laying Hens was released on March 27, 2017, following a review that was initiated in 2012.  The updated Code of Practice is of the utmost importance to the egg industry, as it provides a solid foundation on which the Animal Care Program and standards are based.  Working towards compliance is vital to maintaining public trust and the egg industry’s social license.

With the finalization of the Code, the egg industry now has firm direction on standards for hen housing.  EFA is committed to supporting farmers in meeting the Code requirements.  EFA will keep egg farmers informed as the Animal Care Policy is updated and transition plans are developed.  EFA’s Production Management Committee (PMC) reviewed the Code requirements for furnished and loose housing at their meeting on March 30, and determined the following plans for transitioning to Code requirements:

Furnished Housing Systems:

It has been determined that further information must be gathered before a decision is made on how to transition existing furnished systems to the Code.  EFA Field Coordinators will be collecting information on perch, nest and foraging space, which will be reviewed and used to develop a plan to meet the April 1 Code requirements.

It is important to note that EFA’s policies will be changing to align with the 2017 Code, and it will be necessary for all production facilities in Alberta to meet the April 1 Code requirements before the updated national Animal Care Program is introduced.  As such, EFA recommends that farmers with furnished housing begin assessing their current systems against the Code, and develop a plan to meet the requirements within approximately the next 18 months.

The following updates are being made to EFA’s Animal Care Policy:

  • For all furnished housing systems where design, application, approval, planning or installation was after April 1, 2017, the final Code requirements must be met when the facility goes into production.
  • For all furnished housing systems built before April 1, 2017, the Interim Policy for Furnished Housing remains in effect until further on farm measuring can take place, and be reviewed by the PMC.  The Interim Policy requires 116.25 square inches per bird, and that perch space and nests are provided for the birds.

Loose Housing Systems:

It has been determined that EFA will begin transitioning loose systems to the Code immediately.  As such, the following updates are being made to EFA’s Animal Care Policy:

  • For all loose housing systems where new construction or re-tooling, including the phases of design, application, approval, planning and installation was initiated after April 1, 2017, the final Code requirements must be met when the facility goes into production.
  • Non-cage housing systems (that are not 100% litter) can place at 144 square inches per bird at their next flock cycle, provided the other Code requirements are met, for both white and brown birds.
  • Non-cage housing systems that are not meeting the Code requirements have until the earliest of January 1, 2019 or the adoption of the updated national Animal Care Program, to meet the following Code requirements:
    • a minimum height of 17.7 inches between the floor and ceiling of each level
    • nesting requirements
      • nest space must be enclosed on at least 3 sides
      • where curtains are used, they must extend close to the floor (without impeding the flow of eggs)
      • nest area cannot contain drinkers, feeders or perches
      • space between nest area and useable feed trough must be at least 6 inches
      • the floor of the nest area must be covered with a surface that promotes nesting and prevents injury
    • foraging requirements
      • hens in litter-based systems must be provided with continuous access to litter
    • foraging requirements (single tier systems)
      • if fully slatted or less than 15% of useable space is litter, must provide a solid surface area of at least 16 square feet for dust-bathing, litter, substrate for each 1,000 hens
      • for all other single tier systems, hens must be provided with at least 1 foraging site for each 1,500 hens
      • when multiple sites are provided, they must be evenly distributed
    • foraging requirements (multi tier systems)
      • at least 33% of the useable space must be litter, except for up to 24 weeks of age, when the litter may be reduced to a minimum of 15% of the useable space

EFA will continue to keep egg farmers updated on any new information regarding the 2017 Code of Practice and its implementation.  A summary of the Code requirements for all hen housing systems can be found on the Producer website: http://www.albertaeggproducers.com/userfiles/files/Summary%20of%20the%202017%20Code%20of%20Practice%20Requirements.pdf

A complete copy of the 2017 Code of Practice can also be found on the Producer website: http://www.albertaeggproducers.com/userfiles/files/pullets_and_laying_hens_code_of_practice.pdf