5.1 Feed withdrawal

Regulations on feed withdrawal prior to transport and slaughter of end-of-lay hens

An inventory of available (mainly EU) regulations on feed withdrawal prior to transport and slaughter of laying hens indicated that no legal requirements appear to exist as to how long layers may be deprived of food prior to slaughter.

However, for broilers EC Directive 2007/43/EC prescribes that chickens kept for meat production should not be deprived of food for more than 12 hours before the expected time of slaughter.

Feed withdrawal in practice

In the Netherlands, Nepluvi, the Dutch Poultry Processing Industry Association, recommends a withdrawal period of a maximum of 24 hours (Welfare Code for Poultry Slaughter Plants, Art. 6 Vo 1099/2009). These are recommendations for good management practice to fulfil the requirements of Article 13 of EC Directive 1099_2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing.

Codes of Practice in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland recommend that ‘feed, but not water, may be withheld for up to 12 hours prior to slaughter’ including ‘the catching, loading, transport, lairaging and unloading time’.

The Animal Welfare Approved label in the US requires that end-of-lay laying hens should not be deprived of food for more than 8 hours unless birds are crated overnight and go directly to slaughter in the morning, in which case feed withdrawal may exceed eight hours (Art. 13.4.5).

In the UK, the RSPCA Welfare Standards for Laying Hens (applied through the RSPCA Assured scheme), limit feed withdrawal periods to a maximum of 12 hours prior to slaughter.

Summary of EC regulations :


  1. COUNCIL REGULATION (EC) No 1/2005 of 22 December 2004 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations specified under TECHNICAL RULES, CHAPTER III TRANSPORT PRACTICES that:

Where loading or unloading operations last for more than four hours, except for poultry: (a) appropriate facilities shall be available in order to keep, feed and water the animals outside the means of transport without being tied;


2.1. For poultry, domestic birds and domestic rabbits, suitable food and water shall be available in adequate quantities, save in the case of a journey lasting less than:

(a) 12 hours disregarding loading and unloading time; or

(b) 24 hours for chicks of all species, provided that it is completed within 72 hours after hatching.


  1. COUNCIL REGULATION (EC) No 1099/2009 of 24 September 2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing specifies in CHAPTER II GENERAL REQUIREMENTS in Article 3 General requirements for killing and related operations that business operators shall, in particular, take the necessary measures to ensure that animals:

(e) do not suffer from prolonged withdrawal of feed or water;

In addition, ANNEX II LAYOUT, CONSTRUCTION AND EQUIPMENT OF SLAUGHTERHOUSES (as referred to in Article 14, section 2.3) specifies that:

The water supply system in pens shall be designed, constructed and maintained so as to allow all animals at all times access to clean water without being injured or limited in their movements.

In addition, ANNEX III OPERATIONAL RULES FOR SLAUGHTERHOUSES (as referred to in Article 15) specifies that

1.2. … Animals which have not been slaughtered within 12 hours of their arrival shall be fed, and subsequently given moderate amounts of food at appropriate intervals. ….

1.5. For the purpose of slaughter, unweaned animals, lactating dairy animals, females having given birth during the journey or animals delivered in containers shall be given priority over other types of animal. If this is not possible, arrangements shall be made so as to relieve them from their suffering, in particular by:

(c) providing water in the case of animals delivered in containers


  1. COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2007/43/EC of 28 June 2007 laying down minimum rules for the protection of chickens kept for meat production specifies in ANNEX I REQUIREMENTS APPLICABLE TO HOLDINGS (under Feeding 2) that:

Feed shall be either continuously available or be meal fed and must not be withdrawn from chickens more than 12 hours before the expected slaughter time.


  1. COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 98/58/EC of 20 July 1998 concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes specifies in the Annex under Feed, water and other substances that:
  2. Animals must be fed a wholesome diet which is appropriate to their age and species and which is fed to them in sufficient quantity to maintain them in good health and satisfy their nutritional needs. No animal shall be provided with food or liquid in a manner, nor shall such food or liquid contain any substance, which may cause unnecessary suffering or injury.
  3. All animals must have access to feed at intervals appropriate to their physiological needs.

16. All animals must have access to a suitable water supply or be able to satisfy their fluid intake needs by other means.


Back to:
What is end-of-lay?
Farm management risk factors for end-of-lay.

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