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Is a Cage-Free Chicken a Happy Hen? Oregon Lawmakers Ponder This and Other Issues

Posted Jul 6, 2011 7:33 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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What does it take to make a hen happy? Even the experts aren't sure.

But legislators and lobbyists in Oregon are having a shot at the subject, working to fine-tune an innovative new law that sets standards for keeping chickens in a humane setting. By 2026, the current version mandates, hens must be provided more spacious cages and perks such as perches and scratching pads, reports the Oregonian.

Still being debated is whether it is better to let chickens roam cage-free or keep them confined in colonies. While the former might seem preferable, hens are comfortable living in social groups and can become stressed if they have to figure out relationships with too many other chickens, the article explains.

"I've been working with chickens for close to 40 years and I don't know what a happy chicken is," poultry expert James Hermes tells the newspaper. "The assumption is that hens that lay lots of eggs are happy."

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