Farm Animals

Hens and eggs

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Emma VandenBroek
Aviary free run hen housing
Jill Denys
Aviary free run hen housing

Egg-laying hens in Canada can live in five different types of barns:

  • Enriched Hens live in smaller, more natural sized groups with nest boxes, scratch pads, and perches that allow them to exhibit natural behaviour. This method will be the industry standard in Canada by 2036.
  • Free run Hens live in larger groups, and can move around freely on the entire barn floor, but don't go outside. They have scratch pads, and lay their eggs in nesting boxes.
  • Free range Hens in larger groups are raised in barns similar to free run, but can go outside when the weather is suitable for them to do so. They are able to scratch and lay their eggs in nesting boxes.
  • Aviary Larger groups of hens live in a barn with several levels for perching, eating, and drinking. They lay their eggs in nest boxes, and can go down to the barn floor to scratch.
  • Conventional Hens live in small groups with equal access to fresh food and water. Mesh floors allow the hens’ waste to fall away, keeping the birds and eggs clean. Canadian egg farmers began eliminating this type of barn in 2014, and any new barns that are being built, or existing barns that are being renovated, must follow the new housing standards.
Enriched hen housing
Enriched hen housing

Each type of housing has pros and cons, but the focus is always on flock health. And research is ongoing in Canada and around the world continuously to develop the best housing solutions for birds, farmers and consumers.

Did you know? The average hen lays about 340 eggs per year. That’s more than 28 dozen!

Check out to tour different types of hen housing, and to learn what the labels on your egg cartons mean.