Important legal notice
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Animal health and welfare
Animal health and welfare - Improving animal diets and well-being
“To fill knowledge gaps and offer advice for optimising the welfare of laying hens in commercial egg production.”

The problem

Egg production is an important agricultural activity in the EU, and one that is generally very intensive. In response to societal concern about the welfare of laying hens, Directive 1999/74/EC sets minimum standards for their protection. Battery cages, in their current form, are being phased out (by 2012) and new farming practices (furnished cages and non-cage systems) have emerged. As data accumulate, it is important to acquire a clear picture of animal welfare determinants in furnished cages, aviaries, and free-range systems.

LAYWEL  Improving the health and welfare of laying hens


LayWel aims to produce and disseminate information on the welfare of laying hens in various systems, with the emphasis on furnished cages. Its tasks will be to:

  • Produce a consensus definition of laying-hen welfare, including indicators
  • Identify and describe in detail different categories of housing systems
  • Examine existing data and generate new results on bird health and behaviour in furnished cages and non-cage systems
  • Determine and study physiological indicators of stress
  • Relate welfare data to productivity and egg quality
  • Provide an integrated assessment of laying-hen welfare and recommendations for its optimisation

Contribution to policy development:

  • In the wake of Directive 1999/74/EC and given the stricter rules set by some Member States, it is essential to assess – as LayWel does – the impact of different systems on bird health and welfare in order to shape future decisions
  • The procedure manual and reports will serve as tools for Member States striving to comply with the EU legislation
  • The project will promote a dialogue with stakeholders (e.g. animal welfare organisations and producers)

Project deliverables

  • Consensus definition of laying-hen welfare and indicators, including bird health scoring systems – December 2004
  • Draft and final descriptions of housing systems – December 2004 and August 2005
  • Reports on health, behaviour, stress and physiology, production and egg quality, etc. – November 2005
  • Report on objective comparison of different systems – November 2005
  • Final report and procedure manual – December 2005


  • Halfway meeting with stakeholders aimed at gathering their input and to present and discuss the results; mid-term report to the Commission – January 2005
  • Papers and posters on all topics presented at the 7th European Poultry Welfare Symposium – June 2005
  • Final meeting with stakeholders – December 2005

Technical information

Project acronym: LayWeL
Project’s official full title: Welfare implications of changes in production systems for laying hens
Research priority: 1.4. New and more environment friendly production methods to improve animal health and welfare including research on animal diseases such as foot and mouth disease, swine fever and development of marker vaccines
Specific webpage: Webpage not available
Proposal/contract no: 502315
Start date: 01/01/2004
Kick off meeting: 27/02/2004
Completion date: 31/12/2005
European Commission scientific officer: John Claxton (

Name: Dr Harry Blokhuis, Institute for Science and Health (now part of the Animal Sciences Group of Wageningen University and Research Centre)
Abbreviated Name: ID-Lelystad
Address: Edelhertweg 15, PO Box 65, 8200 AB Lelystad
Country: The Netherlands
Tel: +31 320 238 238
Fax: +31 320 238 050


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Abbreviated Name: OTS
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Abbreviated Name: C-Trace
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Abbreviated Name: Sainsel
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Abbreviated Name: Sodena
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Abbreviated Name: Radiom
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Name: Directorate of Fisheries
Abbreviated Name:
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Name: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Abbreviated Name: DEFRA
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Name: National Board of Fisheries
Abbreviated Name: NBF
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Name: Marine Environment Board, Ministry of Environment
Abbreviated Name: MEB
Country: Latvia

Name: General Inspection Service of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries
Abbreviated Name: AID
Country: The Netherlands

Name: Portuguese General Inspectorate of Fisheries
Abbreviated Name: DGPA
Country: Portugal

Name: Secretaria General de Pesca Maritima
Abbreviated Name: SGPM
Country: Spain

Name: Icelandic Directorate of Fisheries
Abbreviated Name: DoF/IS
Country: Iceland

Name: Joint Research Centre
Abbreviated Name: JRC
Country: EU

Name: GlobalSign NV/SA
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Name: Fisheries Research Institute, University of Iceland
Abbreviated Name: FRI
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Name: North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission
Abbreviated Name: NEAFC
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Abbreviated Name: Navigs
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Abbreviated Name: T&T
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Abbreviated Name: Ubizen
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Abbreviated Name: Eutelsat
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Name: Direction des Pêches Maritimes et de l'Aquaculture
Abbreviated Name: DPMA
Country: France

Abbreviated Name: ELSACOM
Country: Italy