Defra releases details of new £22m hen housing grant

The grant can be applied for to fund replacement or upgrade existing laying hen or pullet housing
The grant can be applied for to fund replacement or upgrade existing laying hen or pullet housing

The government has released new details of its new £22 million grant for laying hens and pullet housing, with an overall aim to boost health and welfare.

The grant, initially announced earlier this month, will be available to farmers in England who keep 1,000 or more birds.

It can be applied for to fund replacement or upgrade existing laying hen or pullet housing, which is referred to as a ‘comprehensive’ project.

It can also be used to add a veranda onto existing laying hen or pullet housing, referred to as a ‘veranda-only’ project.

Both approaches aim to provide animal health and welfare benefits, the government explained.

As with other recent large grants, farmers will be able to use an online checker to check the strength of their project and make an initial application. This is expected to be open at the end of June.

Aims of the successfully funded project will improve laying hen and pullet health and welfare, increase environmental sustainability and introduce innovation.

If a project meets all these priorities, it’s more likely to be accepted, according to Defra's new guidance.

The grant for 'comprehensive' projects is competitive, so an application will be scored against the aforementioned funding priorities, while the grant for 'veranda-only' projects is on a first-come first-serve basis.

Explaining the reason for launching them, a Defra spokesperson said: "There is a direct link between the health and welfare of livestock and a farmer’s bottom line.

"The challenges faced by the poultry sector in recent years make this clear. We know that ageing housing can make a bad situation worse.

"Many farmers tell us that they want to update their housing but struggle to find the funds."

The 'veranda-only' grant will provide funds to farmers to offer additional space via verandas, which can help to improve welfare issues, for example, feather pecking.

Verandas can reduce crowding within indoor housing, increase range use, and provide access to fresh air and natural light when range access is not possible, including when a housing order is in force.

Grants for these projects are going to be awarded on a first come first serve basis, Defra said.

The 'comprehensive' grant is available for farmers looking to refurbish or replace existing laying hen and pullet housing.

This is an opportunity to enhance how flocks are housed, with features designed to deliver high levels of health and welfare; fixed bio-secure, multi-tier housing with non-flicker LED lighting, mechanical ventilation.

Funding for roof-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) systems will also be available as part of these larger projects. Farmers can also build a veranda as part of this project.

The grant will be available to farmers with any current housing system and will support anyone looking to make the transition from colony cages to high-welfare loose-housing.

Defra said it plans to open this grant for applications in June.