What makes a hen happy? - Consumer perceptions of factors influencing free-range hen welfare.

Isabelle Pettersson, Christine Nicol, Claire Weeks

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


This research aimed to understand what consumers think is important for free-range hen welfare with regard to management, resource provision and aspects of the range. Furthermore, we aimed to determine whether responses were affected by demographic or purchasing behaviour groupings. An online survey link was sent via email to approximately 30,000 consumers on a mailing list accumulated by a large free-range egg brand in the UK, with a small incentive to take part. A reminder email was sent out one week before survey closure and 6,378 responses were received over a month period. 81.4% of respondents were female. Respondents chose to buy free-range mostly for reasons relating to hen welfare although product taste was also important. They bought non free-range eggs for reasons relating to cost and availability. Likert-style questions were presented, asking respondents to rate the importance of various factors that might affect hen welfare as well as aspects of the outside area. Although all options were rated as important by respondents, when asked to prioritise, outdoor access was deemed the most important factor (51.6% of respondents) and fresh-air the most important aspect of the range (30.5%). Similarly, respondents were then asked to rate the suitability of various resources as a means to improve welfare both inside and outside the hen house. Resources directly related to behavioural needs of hens (e.g. perches and dustbaths) were rated as more suitable inside the house and shelter was deemed most suitable on the range (62.6%). Comparisons between those who always or regularly buy free-range (n=5653) and those who only occasionally or never do (n=725) demonstrated that free-range buyers significantly rated importance and suitability of all aspects and resources as higher (Mann-Whitney U test: P=<001) and rated welfare higher on a 1-10 scale (Mann-Whitney U test: P=<001) than non-buyers. This research has demonstrated that consumers have an interest in hen welfare when buying free-range and believe that outdoor access is very important for welfare. When deciding on the suitability of ‘enrichment’ to enhance welfare, consumers generally chose those that fulfil a behavioural need. An effect of purchasing choice on responses was also shown.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAWSELVA-ECAWBM-ESVCE Congress Proceedings
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2015
EventAWSELVA-ECAWBM-ESVCE Conference 2015 - SS Great Britain, Bristol, United Kingdom
Duration: 30 Sep 20153 Oct 2015


ConferenceAWSELVA-ECAWBM-ESVCE Conference 2015
CountryUnited Kingdom


  • Hen welfare

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