New grant of up to £500,000 to help farmers improve hen housing

The new grant aims to support poultry farmers with infrastructure projects
The new grant aims to support poultry farmers with infrastructure projects

A new grant worth up to £500,000 for hen housing will be available to laying hen and pullet farmers in England with flocks of 1,000 birds or more.

Defra has published the guidance for the Laying Hen Housing for Health and Welfare grant, which aims to support poultry farmers with infrastructure projects.

The first grant, ranging from £5,000 to £100,000, will go toward the cost of installing a new veranda on an existing building.

A second grant worth between £15,000 and £500,000 will help farmers with the cost of refurbishing or replacing existing laying hen and pullet housing.

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 first 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 veranda-only projects are going to be awarded on a first come first serve basis, Defra confirmed.

The second 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 next month.