Hen Care

All egg farmers are committed to the well-being of their hens.

They take part in the national Animal Care Program and the Start Clean-Stay Clean program to ensure the safety and well-being of the hens while providing eggs that are always clean and fresh for you.

As part of the Animal Care Program, trained field inspectors visit the farm to ensure that hens have a comfortable environment, a well-balanced and nutritious diet, fresh water and clean surroundings.

This program includes not only annual inspections of the barn and surrounding area, but also third party auditing to ensure standards set under the ACP are being met and that the animals are well treated and good records are being kept.

The program is based on the Code of Practice, developed by Canada’s top veterinarians and experts in animal care as well as representatives from the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Hen Housing

Canadian egg farmers use a variety of different systems to house their hens. Each temperature controlled barn provides hens with a clean environment, access to fresh food and water, and protection from natural predators.

1: Conventional

Conventional housing is a cage system that separates the hens and eggs from their waste, allows for easy monitoring of the hens’ health, and results in high food safety.

2: Enriched

Enriched housing is larger than conventional housing and allows more space per hen. It is also equipped with perches and nesting boxes to provide hens with privacy when laying their eggs.

3: Free Run

Free run housing provides hens access to the entire barn floor area where they can perch, scratch, forage and lay their eggs in nesting areas. Some of these barns are also equipped with multi-tiered aviaries.

4: Free Range

Free range housing is similar to free run except it also allows hens access to the outdoors.

5: Organic

In organic production, hens are fed certified organic feed and never given any antibiotics. The hens are given even more space per bird than in other systems, and access to the outdoors. Organic producers also have an extra layer of oversight as they are certified organic by a third-party auditor.

In 2016, Egg Farmers of Canada announced that egg farmers will transition away from conventional hen housing systems over the next 20 years. This means that by 2036, there will be no conventional cages left in Canada.

What do egg farmers feed their hens?

Eggs are one of Mother Nature’s most nutrient-dense foods and BC egg farmers work hard to ensure hens receive a balanced diet consisting of grains, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. Egg farmers follow feed regulations set by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), part of these regulations state that steroids and hormones are not approved for use in Canada. A hen’s diet can change the colour of the egg’s yolk. Wheat-based diets make pale yellow yolks while corn-based diets produce darker yolks. While yolk colour can range from pale yellow to deep orange it does not affect the flavor, nutrient value or quality of the egg.

Feed also plays an important role in specialty eggs:

  • Organic eggs come from hens that are fed certified organic feed.
  • Vegetarian fed eggs come from hens that are fed a vegetarian diet containing only plant-based ingredients.
  • Vitamin-Enriched eggs have more Vitamin E, Vitamin B12, and folacin than regular eggs. The hens are fed a traditional feed that contains higher levels of certain nutrients.
  • Omega-3 or Omega Pro eggs have more Omega-3 than regular eggs because the feed contains ground flax seed, fish oil or other DHA sources, which results in the eggs having a higher Omega-3 and DHA content.

Are hens given hormones or antibiotics by injection or in their feed?

Hens are never given hormones. Since the 1960’s, it is illegal in Canada to give hormones or steroids to hens that lay eggs. Any antibiotics or medications are only given under the direction of a veterinarian. If any hens become ill, their eggs are diverted away from public consumption until the hens are well again. Young laying hens are vaccinated for the same reason we vaccinate our children: to prevent specific diseases. This is true for all types of Canadian grade A eggs available at grocery stores.