If you have never seen inside the hen house on a free range egg farm, a flat deck system is probably how you image it to be.
It’s a simple design which has a solid or slatted floor, with a single raised area where food, water, perching areas and nesting boxes are provided.
At least one third of the flooring of the house is set aside for dust bathing and scratching for the birds – encouraging them to display their natural behaviour.
Pop holes are usually positioned on either side of the shed to allow the birds to run in and out during daylight hours using ramps that slope down to the floor to prevent them from jumping too far and injuring their legs.
Chickens derive from jungle fowl so it’s important that they have the option to run back inside if they feel threatened. This might be from a perceived predator flying around above them, or a fox. All ranges are well fenced to keep the birds in and keep predators out.
Back inside the shed, nesting boxes provide a safe place for the birds to lay their egg, and most will lay about one egg a day. Farmers provide nesting boxes to reduce the amount of eggs that are laid on the floor which are more labour intensive to collect and can get broken.
In some flat deck systems, producers will collect the eggs by hand by walking around the shed and opening each nesting box. Others have a conveyor belt to brings the eggs from the nesting boxes to the packing stations or a collection area at the end of the shed.
Producers using a flat deck system could have 16,000 birds in a shed. Rules state that there must not be more than nine birds per square metre in a house. New build sheds of this kind are increasingly looking to multi-tier sheds.