An egg farmer’s dedication to providing the best care possible for their flock starts the day they receive their birds and continues through the unavoidable day when they must depopulate at end of lay. This high-quality care not only means providing a safe and comfortable environment for the hens to be healthy and happy, but also ensures that all hens are treated humanely when they are euthanized or depopulated.
Laying hens typically begin laying eggs around 19 weeks of age and are in production for one year. Through genetic selection and possibly as a result of alternative hen housing systems providing more opportunity for load-bearing activities, some flocks are starting to lay quality eggs for up to an additional five months.
In collaboration with animal welfare experts and poultry veterinarians, EFA has created guides and conducted workshops to help Alberta egg farmers more effectively manage humane euthanasia and depopulation of their layer flocks. Ensuring every egg farm has a plan for humane euthanasia and depopulation is tracked via the national Animal Care Program.
In accordance with the ACP, all registered egg farmers must follow the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals and adhere to a Standard Operating Procedure that has been approved by a poultry veterinarian. The methods approved by the AVMA include carbon dioxide, cervical dislocation, decapitation, and electrocution.
Many egg farms in Alberta have provincially inspected facilities where they process all or a portion of their end of lay hens, either for their own consumption or to sell as stewing hens. Some farms ship their end of lay birds to processors as an ingredient for pet food. Most egg farmers use their end of lay birds in composting, providing valuable nitrogen and phosphorous for their farm’s soil.