Farm Animals

Hens and eggs

Share This Article:

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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 can scratch and lay their eggs in nesting boxes.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. Any new barns being built, or existing barns that are being renovated, must follow the new housing standard.

Each type of housing has pros and cons. For farmers, the focus is always on flock health. Researchers in Canada and around the world are continuously investigating what works best for birds, farmers and consumers.
Check out to see the five different types of hen housing (and many other types of farms), and to learn what the labels on your egg cartons mean.

Did you know...

The average hen lays about 340 eggs, or 28 dozen, each year.

More than one stomach compartment

Unlike humans, some animals digest their food in more than one step. Animals like cattle, goats, sheep, llamas, bison, buffalo, elk and deer have a four-chambered stomach. They eat raw plant material, then regurgitate a partially-digested version of that feed (called cud) to chew it again. This process is called ruminating and helps to digest high fiber feed that humans can’t. Animals that digest their food this way are called ruminants.