Nov. 15, 2016

Why do we house our hens inside?

Animal Welfare

I have been asked by several different people with very diverse backgrounds as to why we house hens inside. People have a Disney moment every time they see a big fluffy chicken scratching around in a dusty yard, or eating grass in a beautiful sunny field. They feel these idyllic images should be the goal of “farming” everywhere, and folks wonder why on earth this doesn’t happen.

Extreme Weather

There are several very good reasons why laying hens are housed indoors, especially in Canada. The most obvious reason is the extreme weather we experience.  Laying hens evolved from Red Jungle Fowl from Borneo. From the name, you might rightly get the impression that they are not well suited to snow, cold, wind or frost, which we have in abundance. Frostbite, discomfort and disease like Avian Influenza are very real dangers for hens housed outside in Canada.

Chickens are the ultimate prey animal.  EVERYTHING wants to eat them. As such, they have perfected the art of being “chicken”. Having a shelter to hide in and feel secure in is a very attractive thing for chickens. Even given the opportunity to go outside, a small majority of chickens don’t, according to research. Many will look outdoors, but won’t go out.

Greater risk for injury, predation and disease

Being outdoors puts hens at much greater risk for injury, disease, predation, environmental stress and makes it difficult to provide easy access to food and water, as well as the conditions that allow the hens to lay safe, unbroken eggs. Pastured hens can have a good life, but it is very complicated to have more than a few hens in these conditions and provide them with everything they need. If you would like more information on the subject, please visit my blog at

Learn more about Burnbrae's commitment to hen health and well-being.

Thanks to our guest blogger - Mike Petrik

Visit Mike the Chicken Vet's blog for first-hand opinions on laying hens from all walks of life, from backyard hens to professional egg farms:

Visit for additional information and to tour different types of Canadian egg laying farms.