A couple more stories on the "cage-free" movement for chickens: Haspel in the Post
Today's story treats the movement as a fait accompli for the Humane Society. As I've written before, I've some reservations about this. There's tradeoffs: on the one hand chickens get space to behave more "naturally", on the other hand some of the chickens will lose their lives earlier than they would otherwise. Being pecked to death is not a good way to die. (Hens being omnivores react to the sight of blood and compete to get a beak full, and then another, and then another.
And the "free-range" concept also has qualifications: chickens are naturally a warm weather bird, so those being reared north of the Mason Dixon line won't go outside for all the months of the year. Hen houses typically aren't climate controlled, perhaps fans to move the air during the summer but I doubt heaters. I remember our hens huddling together for warmth on the cold days of the year, more hens in closer contact than if they were in cages.
I'm no expert in modern day poultry raising but I wonder about culling. On the farm my mother would cull our flock of 1-year old hens down by half, keeping the best for another year. But that's labor-intensive (requiring early morning rising and all-hands on deck). I don't know whether these days hens are culled in the same way. If they are, the process would be much easier and more accurate with the cages than not.
I honor the impulse behind the cage-free movement, but a sizable fraction of the benefits are accruing to people's sense of their own merit.