Skip to main content


Public consultation for the draft Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry is now open.

Public consultation will run for 90 days from Monday 27 November 2017 to 5pm Monday 26 February 2018.

View FAQ and criteria for submissions here.

The poultry welfare standards and guidelines cover a lot more than just battery cages. Below are some of the welfare issues that the RSPCA is concerned about, and some of our recommendations.

Housing poultry in cages

Despite the extensive and serious negative welfare effects of battery cages, they are still permitted in the proposed standards.

RSPCA recommendation
The RSPCA urgently recommends that a standard be included in chapter B1 – Laying Chickens to ensure that battery cages for layer hens are phased out, and a standard included in Part A – 4 Facilities and Equipment, to prohibit housing any birds in conventional cages.

The provision of litter and dustbaths

There is no standard requiring that poultry be provided with litter for the purpose of dustbathing and foraging.

RSPCA recommendation: The inclusion of a standard in Chapter 8 – Litter management that ensures all poultry housed indoors must have access to a littered area to allow birds to forage and dustbathe.

The provision of perches

There are proposed guidelines recommending that perches be provided. However, these are not standards, and will therefore not be enforceable.

RSPCA recommendation: The inclusion of a standard in chapter 4 – Facilities and equipment to ensure adequate perch space must be provided to all poultry with a motivation to perch.

Minimum light levels

The proposed standards allow poultry to be kept in near-dark conditions for most of their lives, not allowing the expression of normal behaviours and eye development, and without adequate light and dark periods for normal behaviour and rest.

RSPCA recommendation: The amending of standard SA6.3 in chapter 6 – Lighting to ensure that the minimum light intensities for all poultry be increased to at least 10 lux, and amending standard SA6.5 to require 8 hours of continuous darkness in each 24 hour period for all poultry.

Nests for layer hens

There are proposed guidelines recommending sufficient nests for hens, but these will not be enforceable.

RSPCA recommendation: The RSPCA urgently recommends that guideline GB1.6 become a standard in Chapter 4 – facilities and equipment to ensure that hens of all species must be provided with a nest.

More space per bird

The proposed standards for minimum space allowance for birds are inadequate as they do not give birds enough space to move freely or carry out normal behaviours.

RSPCA recommendation: Maximum stocking densities be decreased for all species, so that each individual bird has more room to move and express its normal behaviours.

No forced moulting

The proposed standards allow forced moulting where birds coming towards end-of-lay undergo a period of stress because of a sudden change in feed and, as a result, lose a large amount of feathers and body weight.

RSPCA recommendation: Standards must be introduced to ensure that poultry are not forced to moult.

Revision to standards on beak-trimming and bill trimming

The proposed standards for beak and bill trimming of poultry do not acknowledge the pain associated with this procedure.

RSPCA recommendation: Stricter standards must be introduced around beak and bill-trimming to ensure that it is not performed unless necessary for animal welfare reasons, and it is performed appropriately, with minimal impacts on the birds.

More standards on stunning, slaughter and on-farm killing

The proposed standards must better safeguard the welfare of poultry at abattoirs and on-farm.

RSPCA recommendation: More requirements are needed in chapter 11 – poultry at slaughtering establishments to ensure welfare at abattoirs, and to prevent failures. This includes specifications for electrical waterbath and controlled atmosphere stunning systems, a requirement for CCTV cameras in all abattoirs, and designated animal welfare officers in all abattoirs. More requirements are also needed in chapter 10 – humane killing to include unacceptable methods.