Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Battery Cages Definition:

High-volume, small cages to house chickens for the purposes of egg production.

Barren, wire-mesh enclosures to minimize the housing requirements of egg-laying chickens. The European Union banned the use of batery cages as of January 2012.1

These cages are not even big enough for one chicken to flap her wings, and are often stuffed with up to four chickens.

In their book A Worldwide View of Animal Law, Wagman and Liebman provide not only a description of battery cages but also speak to the animal welfare rights associated with the practise:

"Battery cages are a form of high-volume, extreme confinement. The standard battery cage houses up to ten chickens, who live their entire lives on barren wire; each hen has approximately sixty-seven square inches of space, less than a letter-sized sheet of notebook paper. At the typical factory farm, battery cages are stacked side by side, several cages high in long rows in windowless buildings. Tens of thousands of chickens can occupy a single building, and a single factory farm may contain millions of laying hens.

"These crowded conditions prevent hens from even turning around or spreading their wings. They are deprived of virtually every aspect of natural behavior. Battery cage hens never see the outdoors and never walk on the ground. They cannot hunt for food, dust bathe; establish social relationships, or build nests, all of which hens will do in the wild or when liberated from battery cages to sanctuaries....

battery cages"The close confinement of hens in battery cages disturbs the natural pecking order that hens establish in wild social groups. In an open space, a hen who is lower on the pecking order can escape the pecking of a higher hen by fleeing the conflict. Flight from conflict is not an option in a small wire cage, though, so battery cage hens often peck each other to death or resort to cannibalism. To avoid these pecking deaths, the beaks of female chicks are trimmed on factory farms - a process by which 1/3> to 2/3 of a hen's beak is sliced (seared) off with a hot blade without anesthesia."

Loworn and Penny describe battery cages as follows:

"Approximately 95% of hens in U.S. factory farms are intensively confined in small, wire battery cages, stacked several tiers high and extending down long warehouses. Industrial producers usually give hens less space than the area of a letter-sized sheet of paper in which to eat, sleep, lay eggs, and defecate.

"The intensive confinement makes it impossible for them to engage in nearly all of their natural behavior, including dust-bathing, foraging, or nesting, the most significant source of frustration for battery caged hens.

"While many countries are phasing out the abusive battery cage system, U.S. egg producers still overcrowd hens in barren cages so small the birds cannot even spread their wings."


  • Loworn, Jonathan and Perry, Nancy, California Proposition 2: A Watershed Moment for Animal Law, 15 Animal L. 149 (2008-2009)
  • NOTE 1: Park, Miyun and Singer, Peter, The Globalization of Animal Welfare: More Food Does Not Require More Suffering, 91 Foreign Aff. 122 (2012)
  • Wagman, Bruce and Liebman, Matthew, A Worldwide View of Animal Law (Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 2011), page 68.

Categories & Topics:

Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!