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to express behaviors will be improved, but there is less con-
sensus on hen health if the cages are replaced with cage-free
facilities (i.e., aviaries or free-range systems). Some believe
that, although mortality rates are higher in a cage-free system,
this is a cost worth paying if the hens are given ample room
to move around, explore, and express their normal behaviors.
Others believe animal welfare is lower in a cage-free facil-
ity, due to increased predation, cannibalism, hen piling and
smothering, feather pecking, exposure to and spread of para-
sites and diseases, and mortality, and that these factors should
not be ignored when evaluating welfare and a housing system.
Regarding what hens “feel” about their environments, this
disagreement is almost impossible to reconcile because it is
impossible to measure whether hens are truly “happier” or
emotionally distressed in any one system. However, using
behavior experiments comparing normal ancestral behavior
patterns to domesticated hens and studying preference tests
(for resources like perches, private nest boxes, increased space,
etc.) can help provide insight into the extent that hens desire or
dislike environmental features (i.e., their motivation to live in
a particular environment or obtain a specific resource). These
behavioral scientific tools can indirectly provide us the infor-
mation needed to better understand the feelings hens may
have about their environmental conditions. With many differ-
ent ways of looking at welfare, it is clear that assessing hen
welfare can be quite difficult and multifactorial.
Another pet analogy that one of the authors uses to illus-
trate how people have different priorities regarding welfare
was described by the welfare and behavior research special-
ist Dr. Joy Mench of the University of California, Davis. This
analogy describes an indoor cat sitting at a window, longing
to go outside and explore, hunt, and protect its territory. Some
cat owners (like the author herself) recognize that their cat's
desire to act on its natural instincts is important to its men-
tal well-being. But is allowing the cat to have outdoor access
worth endangering the cat by exposing it to vehicles, predators,
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