91. The Welfare of Livestock Regulations 1994 require that laying hens shall be inspected thoroughly at least once per day. We have been advised that it is common industry practice to interpret this inspection requirement as a house or system inspection. The code of recommendations for the welfare of domestic fowls (1987) states that "the size of a unit should not be increased nor should a unit be set up unless it is reasonably certain that the stockman in charge will be able to safeguard the welfare of the individual bird".
92. FAWC is concerned that the inspection of hens in the upper and bottom rows of conventional cage systems often cannot readily be carried out on a daily basis with sufficient rigour for illness or injury of individual birds to be detected. As cage systems have developed, it has become increasingly common for stacks to be from 5-8 tiers high in large battery units. In this situation the need for daily inspection is made difficult, particularly at bottom level and for all hens above head height of the stockperson. Attention must be paid to improvement of access arrangements to make it possible for flocks to be inspected easily and regularly, given the fact that the ratio of birds per stockperson has reached very high levels (often in excess of 25,000 caged birds per person). In colony house systems such as percheries and aviaries with a range of internal house furniture, there are problems of regular inspection of hens which have to be solved if the relevant legislation and welfare code requirements are to be observed.
93. The law requires hens to be inspected at least daily. This inspection should be sufficiently thorough to detect illness and injury of individual hens and we believe that inspection should take place at least twice a day.