Lawmakers Asked To Give Hens More Room

CONCORD - New Hampshire lawmakers are being asked to guarantee egg-laying hens will have room to spread their wings.
calendar icon 19 March 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

Supporters of two bills told a House committee Friday that the chickens should not be kept in such small cages that they can't spread their wings. They said the cages -- called battery cages -- are usually about 67 square inches in size and don't allow chickens to move properly.

One bill would ban the practice in New Hampshire -- though supporters acknowledge there's no evidence of abuse in the state. The ban also would apply to domesticated turkey, duck, goose and guinea used to produce eggs.

The other bill would require the state to buy its eggs from farmers who don't confine their hens in the small cages. Supporters said that would help New Hampshire's egg-producers.

Critics said that would increase the state's cost to buy eggs for the state prison, the state nursing homes for veterans and the elderly and for young offenders at the youth reformatory.

Judy Reardon, a lobbyist for the New England Brown Egg Council, said the diet at the state prisons already is low in protein and high in starches. Higher-priced eggs will mean fewer eggs offered inmates, she said.

"I would urge you to be more concerned about the human inmates and less concerned about the hen inmates," she said.

Bill Taylor of Taylor Egg Products in Madbury said he has some "floor birds" in New Hampshire but buys eggs from 500,000 hens in caged operations in other states to supply the state prison. If the state required him to buy eggs from cage-free hens, the price to supply the prison would rise perhaps $60,000 to $75,000 per year. Labor and space costs are much higher for cage-free hens, he said.

Opponents also said there's no evidence caging chickens harms them. They said rather than tell farmers what to do, the state should make it a priority to buy from local producers.


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