Eggs termed as ‘free range’ hens, must have continuous access to outdoors during daylight hours, to fresh water and to external areas which are mainly covered with vegetation.
The birds are housed in hen houses, where part of the floor is covered in straw, which allows the birds to exhibit their natural behaviour. Pop holes are be located on different sides of the house to allow birds to avoid adverse weather conditions.
Nest boxes are provided for the birds to lay their eggs.
Water and feeding troughs are also provided. Natural lighting may be supplemented by electric lighting to provide an optimum day length throughout the year.
The hens are provided with adequate protection from predators and have access to shelter akin to their natural habitat, to protect them from overhead predators and shelter them from extreme weather conditions.
These eggs are from free range hens that have been fed a meal rich in maize instead of wheat. This maize gives the yolk of the egg a lovely deep yellow hue.
These eggs are from free range hens that have been fed a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 levels in these eggs are double the levels found in normal eggs.
Eggs produced as Organic are produced similar to the Free Range System. The organic diet contains cereals or cereal by-products. The regulatory body that sets the standards for Organic production is IOFGA (Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association) or the Organic Trust.
In the barn system the hens are housed in houses similar to free range birds but they have no access to the outside. Conditions and regulations within the house apply as with those of free range production.
Enriched colony systems are the most popular method of commercial egg production. They offer a high degree of control over the birds’ environment and hygiene. There are also good opportunities for mechanisation of routine operations such as provision of feed and water, the collection of eggs and the removal of manure. Enriched colony systems include nest boxes, perching space and scratch areas.