Financial impacts of a housing order on commercial free range egg layers in response to highly pathogenic avian influenza

Preventive Veterinary Medicine


  • First UK estimates of mandatory AI housing order impacts at commercial farm scale.
  • Increased feed and feeding costs observed during a housing order.
  • Higher revenues and margins over feed, dependant on duration of housing order.


Recent annual outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) have led to mandatory housing orders on commercial free-range flocks. Indefinite periods of housing, after poultry have had access to range, could have production and financial consequences for free range egg producers. The impact of these housing orders on the performance of commercial flocks is seldom explored at a business level, predominantly due to the paucity of commercially sensitive data. The aim of this paper is to assess the financial and production impacts of a housing order on commercial free-range egg layers. We use a unique data set showing week by week performance of layers gathered from 9 UK based farms over the period 2020–2022. These data cover an average of 100,000 laying hens and include two imposed housing orders, in 2020/2021 and in 2021/22. We applied a random intercept linear regression to assess impacts on physical outputs and inputs, bird mortality and the impacts on revenue, feed costs and margin over feed cost. Feed use and feed costs per bird increased during the housing order which is a consequence of increased control over diet intake in housed compared to ranged birds. An increase in revenue was also found, ostensibly due to a higher proportion of large eggs produced, leading to a higher margin over feed cost. Overall, these large commercial poultry sheds were able to mitigate some of the potential adverse economic effects of housing orders. Potential negative impacts may occur dependant on the duration of the housing order and those farms with less control over their input costs.

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Barnes Andrew Mg 6836 Bw Sm

Prof. Andrew Barnes

Agricultural Economist,

Tarek Conversation8 Bw

Dr Tarek Soliman

Animal Health Economist,