This style of housing started to become known as conventional when it became the widespread industry standard decades ago. Hens are housed together in cages with small social groups of five or six. Conventional cages, while providing for the hens’ well-being, are to be phased out by the industry over the next 20 years to be replaced with housing that offers enrichments like perches and nesting areas.
The hens have equal access to food and water 24 hours a day, and due to the smaller size of the groups, the pecking order is kept to a minimum.
First and foremost, the smaller social groups in conventional housing reduce behavioural issues and injuries from pecking, and this system produces the cleanest eggs. The conventional system doesn’t allow for hens to perch or nest.
The eggs immediately roll down onto a conveyor belt for collection. This method keeps the eggs much cleaner than other systems. These belts carry the eggs to a centralized collection area where the eggs are packed wide-end up to keep the yolk centred.
Hens lay their eggs in response to daylight, which traditionally meant that egg laying was a seasonal occurrence from spring to autumn. In 1938, a researcher at the University of Guelph discovered that electric light creates an optimum length of day for year-round laying. In most hen barns, the lights will be kept on 14-16 hours a day to simulate spring.