The Happy Egg Company, owned by Noble Foods, goes to great lengths to ensure the welfare of their birds – because happy hens make for happy eggs. A day on the farm for the average Happy Egg hen includes a number of activities devised by the company to create an environment that allows them to fully express their natural behaviour.
Space is a primary concern for the farmers, who recognise the importance of allowing hens to roam freely across differing habitats. Hens like to peck (a lot!), so the beginning of a hen’s day is likely to consist of exploring and foraging across acres of range. With this in mind, The Happy Egg Company ensure wooded areas make up at least ten percent of each of their farms, and that tree lines, hedgerows, fallen trunks and undergrowth are all easily accessible to the birds. This allows them to rummage for food and feel at home in their environment, reducing stress and increasing welfare.
After spending the morning foraging, Happy Egg’s hens might return to take part in one of the number of activities set up for them by farmers. The company has close ties with researchers at the University of Bristol, who discovered that domesticated hens are in some ways more intelligent that human toddlers. They found the birds have the ability to use logic, interact socially, and even count to five. Because of this, Happy Egg farms provide their hens with activity kits, placed at points throughout their ranges, which give the birds a chance to perch, shelter and group together socially.
Alongside activity kits, the Happy Egg Company promotes welfare by supplying their birds with specially designed dustbaths. Hens naturally prefer to clean themselves by rolling in dust or sand, so the best way to ensure they are kept clean is to let them to do it themselves. Because of this, Happy Egg’s hens might be found spending an afternoon pecking around dustbaths and cleaning their feathers. Another studied carried out by the University of Bristol showed hens tend to be happier and more relaxed in the presence of a cockerel. However, for obvious reasons, Happy Egg farms do not mix cockerels with their hens. Because of this, the company devised an innovative way of suggesting the presence of cockerels, by creating the Nice Pecks calendar. It shows pictures of cockerels and is placed near the baths, giving the hens the impression that a cockerel is around.
Of course, the most important part of a hen’s day, at least for the Happy Egg Company, is laying happy eggs, and here again the company has welfare in mind. Happy Egg farms place their nesting boxes indoors, and give birds freedom and privacy to lay eggs whenever they feel like it. Their hens lay, on average, one egg every twenty-six hours, and although they are encouraged to use nesting boxes, are not prevented from laying eggs out in the range.
All in all, it’s obvious that natural, fulfilling environment the Happy Egg Company provides for their birds definitely leads to happy eggs!