Chickens in battery cages showing the banks of cages. Chickens battery research paper battery cages showing individual cages.
Battery cages are a housing system used for various animal production methods, but primarily for egg-laying hens. The name arises from the arrangement of rows and columns of identical cages connected together, in a unit, as in an artillery battery. Although the term is usually applied to poultry farming, similar cage systems are used for other animals. Battery cages are the predominant form of housing for laying hens worldwide. Battery cages also used for mink, rabbit, chinchilla and foxes in fur farming, and most recently for the Asian palm civet for kopi luwak production of coffee. An early reference to battery cages appears in Milton Arndt’s 1931 book, Battery Brooding, where he reports that his cage flock was healthier and had higher egg production than his conventional flock.
At this early date, battery cages already had the sloped floor that allowed eggs to roll to the front of the cage, where they were easily collected by the farmer and out of the hens’ reach. Original battery cages extended the technology used in battery brooders, which were cages with a wire mesh floor and integral heating elements for brooding chicks. The wire floor allowed the manure to pass through, removing it from the chicks’ environment and reducing the risk of manure-borne diseases. Early battery cages were often used for selecting hens based on performance, since it is easy to track how many eggs each hen is laying if only one hen is placed in a cage. Later, this was combined with artificial insemination, giving a technique where each egg’s parentage is known. This method is still used today. Early reports from Arndt about battery cages were enthusiastic.
This form of battery is coming into widespread use throughout the country and apparently is solving a number of the troubles encountered with laying hens in the regular laying house on the floor. In the first edition of this book I spoke of my experimental work with 220 pullets which were retained for one year in individual cages. At the end of this year it was found that the birds confined in the batteries outlaid considerably the same size flock in the regular houses. The birds consume less feed than those on the floor and this coupled with the increased production made them more profitable than the same number of pullets in the laying house. A number of progressive poultrymen from all over the United States and some in foreign countries cooperated with me in carrying on experimental work with this type of battery and each and every one of them were very well satisfied with the results obtained.