Prop 12 “Cage Free” = 1 to 1.5 Square Feet

The average chicken wingspan is 2-3 feet. There is a current California law that says egg-laying hens must be able to open their wings fully without touching an enclosure or another hen. 

California’s Prop 12 will take away space for these hens to move around, but it will also take away their cages.

I wanted to know which option was better, but in my research, I learned more than I expected: There is a second current California law that contradicts the first in many ways. Both are being used by farmers now.

How do we know how to vote on Prop 12 if we don’t know which law to compare it to, or if the second law will continue to stand?

Prop 12 is misleading in layers, like a confusing and un-delicious croissant. But I love croissants and even the the worst croissant is still a croissant, right? Well, it’s really up to each person’s tastebuds. I can see why anyone would want a croissant at anytime, but I seem to have lost my appetite.

Hiding the Definition of the Prop

Prop 12 says there will be a temporary time where hens are confined to 1 square foot of space, with that time ending in 2022 when hens become cage-free.

But Prop 12 uses a definition of cage-free that means 1 to 1.5 square feet of space.

And the definition is technically left out of the proposition. Instead, Prop 12 says in 2022, the hens will become cage-free based on The United Egg Producers 2017 Guideline’s definition. If the public doesn’t look up the guidelines, the definition is very rarely mentioned in the press and will most likely go unnoticed.

And while people who want a more-free-type-of-cage-free may not be aware of the content of the vote, the LA Times is telling the public that one-square foot is exactly what those people want:

“The new initiative sets the standard initially at 144 square inches per bird — one square foot — which is the level at which a hen is considered by activists to be cage free.”

Although it took me two days of researching to come across Prop 12’s cage free definition, it is in one obvious place: The CA Official Voter Information Guide. It’s in the fine print, but there nonetheless (see the little letter “c”):


Prop 2: The Original “Cage-Free” Prop from 10 Years Ago

The chicken-spacing law we use now came from Prop 2, the original “cage-free” prop proposed and approved ten years ago in 2008. The prop was marketed as cage-free but still included cages.

Proposition 2 didn’t write out exact spacial requirements, but says it’s illegal to confine “a covered animal in a manner that prevents the animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending the animal’s limbs, or turning around freely… ‘Fully extending his or her limbs’ means… fully spreading both wings without touching the side of an enclosure or other egg-laying hens.” Prop 12 would take away these requirements.

Since many of us aren’t measuring chickens regularly, I’d like to share a visual of what is being considered. I think the graphic below, although it is old and discusses Prop 2 instead of Prop 12, brings some visual clarity to the current discussion. The graphic is from The San Francisco Chronicle 2016 article “What is does cage-free mean, exactly?” about Proposition 2.

The part of the graphic that estimates 1.5 square feet as the Prop 2 requirement is incorrect. Prop 2 requires enough space for an egg-laying hen to open their wings without touching an enclosure or another egg-laying hen, which is larger than 1.5 square feet.

Please note that organic egg-laying hens get 3 total square feet: 1 inside, and 2 outside on soil.


SF Chronicle 2016 egg-laying hen info from Humane Society

Prop Writers Working with Former Prop Opposers

Prop 12 is written by the Humane Society who wrote Prop 2 in 2008. (Prop 12 is simply edit suggestions for Prop 2.) But the Humane Society misled the public by marketing Prop 2 as cage-free, when they knew it didn’t have wording in it that addressed cages (because they wrote it).

The Humane Society co-wrote this new 2018 prop with The United Egg Producers, but the United Egg Producers opposed The Humane Society’s original “cage-free” prop in 2008.

The UEP is “a cooperative that represents members with 95% of the egg-laying hens in the United States” according to The Gianni Foundation of Agricultural Economics at the University of California.

It is the UEP’s definition of cage-free that Prop 12 is using. Using the guidelines for cage-free from a group that opposed the original cage-free bill feels wrong to me.

New Prop vs. What We Have Now

  • When Prop 12 says “hen,” it refers to a duck, goose, chicken, turkey or guinea fowl, which are all different sizes and have different spatial relationships given the same amount of space: 1 square foot. For example, an average chicken hen has a 2-3 foot wingspan, but a smaller turkey’s average wingspan is about 4.9 square feet. Neither of them could open their wings in one square foot of space, but the turkey would be even more cramped. On the contrary, Prop 2 says they would all be able to open their wings and turn around.

5 hen types CA 2

  • Prop 12 will undo the ability for hens to spread their wings and fully turn around, laws that Prop 2 established. After Prop 2 passed, egg producers sued saying Prop 2 was “unconstitutionally vague” because it decided spatial requirements based on a hen’s wingspan and ability to turn around. But the Superior Court of California and the Federal District court said Prop 2 is not vague, is measurable, and enforceable, and just because plaintiffs didn’t like it didn’t mean it was unconstitutional. I’m paraphrasing, but the judge really was that sassy about it. The court also said:

 “All Proposition 2 requires is that each chicken be able to extend its limbs fully and turn around freely… Because hens have a wing span and a turning radius that can be observed and measured, a person of reasonable intelligence can determine the dimensions of an appropriate confinement that will comply with Proposition 2.”

  • Prop 12 adds temporary times where the hens can be cruelly confined (no more than 24 hours in a month). Prop 2 doesn’t have temporary times.


  • Prop 12 names someone who would enforce the prop, unlike Prop 2, which named no one. But the two new groups enforcing Prop 12, The Department of Food and Agriculture and the State Department of Public Health, wouldn’t announce their rules of how to implement Prop 12 until September 1, 2019. So we’re voting to agree on rules that don’t exist yet.noun_Question_759832
  • Prop 12 would give the hens scratch areas, perches, nest boxes, and dust bathing areas. These are vital to the bird’s health, not extra amenities. But Prop 12 doesn’t specify how many of these items will be added per amount of birds, or at all. The dominant birds get protective of these areas and if there aren’t enough areas added, it can cause fighting, anxiety, and attacks which sometimes lead to death. I think it’s important for us to know what we’re agreeing to… How many areas are being added? Some chicken farms in California have thousands of hens. How many perches for the whole farm?noun_Bird_548198
  • With Prop 12, if a buyer says they knew a seller tried to sell them products from animals that were cruelly confined, that seller can defend themselves with a good faith certificate from their supplier that says the products weren’t cruelly confined. This doesn’t sound very ethical to me.


The Humane Society | Letter from a Famous Farmer

I wrote to a famous farmer, at least famous to me, who humanely raises animals for meat. I trust this farmer and value their opinion so even though they live out of state and they won’t be voting on Prop 12, I asked their opinion about the proposition and its advocates. This farmer has never met me, we’ve never communicated, there’s no financial gain for them, and barely anyone will read be reading this blog, so I figured they wouldn’t write me back. But they did. They said I can share their response.

Their response was that the HSUS (the Humane Society of the United States) has been in the pocket of big agriculture from the start, that way HSUS gets a seat at the table. It didn’t surprise this person that a slight of hand is occurring over this issue. They said to look at who is in favor of the Prop: the HSUS, who they know to be fraudulent, and Big Egg (the United Egg Producers), who are trying to protect their turf.

The farmer’s philosophy is that we don’t need laws to protect animals, we just need people to think about their food source as much as they think about entertainment. Then the demand for humanely-raised food would naturally happen, and the other types of food wouldn’t be produced anymore.

I agree with this most of this idea, especially the part about thinking more about our food sources. But we’ll come to a crossroads when trying to vote with our wallets if the labels we go by are misleading us to think animal welfare is happening when it isn’t. It made me wonder what the definition of cage-free means on the current boxes of eggs in the store.

But the main point now is that it was beyond good to hear from this farmer. It let me be more open to the idea that the Humane Society of the United States might not be an angelic as I had assumed.

A Misconception About the Humane Society

Many people think the Humane Society is affiliated with the Humane Societies in their town, like an umbrella organization for local chapters. I learned from researching that the Humane Society of the United States isn’t affiliated with local humane societies. On the HSUS website it says clearly, “Local humane societies and SPCAs are independent entities and are not run by the HSUS or any other national entity.”

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) does work with local chapters on training, evaluations, publications and other professional services.

But it does stand out to me that they seem to give the public the impression that they are affiliated with local chapters. Again, it seems misleading, which is a pattern of behavior at this point to me.

The Humane Society’s goals are more about preventative animal protection through legislature. That sounds good, but it may mean that they end up being focusing on fundraising for lobbying, which can be so important, but can also sometimes lead people down the distracting path of greed.

Who Doesn’t Like the Humane Society? 

This one is a hard one for me. I think it’s hard for humans to discover that things that make us feel safe aren’t always what we think they are. Endorsers trust the Humane Society to protect animals. Opponents say that the Humane Society is scandal-ridden.

I’ve learned that Big Meat sure doesn’t like HSUS. And I learned that Big Meat exists. I guess I had thought about it with dairy, but that’s all. Anyway, it’s easiest to learn negative information about HSUS through meat lobbyists.

But PETA is opposing this HSUS Prop too. And I learned that it’s naive of me to think that PETA and HSUS would be on the same side of every issue. I’m learning that no one is ever on the same side of every issue.

I found a No Kill Shelter advocate who is doing a very honest and informed job of exposing the truth about HSUS’s behavior in regards to no-kill shelters. Nathan Winograd and his wife have written the All American Vegan cookbook and run the No Kill Shelter Advocacy.

In a blog about a Minnesota vote that was upcoming, that would grant animals the protections he describes, he speaks soberly and with great experience on his website

“Publicly, HSUS has stated that it is against the gas chamber, against heart sticking , for rescue rights, believes in transparency, supports bifurcated holding periods, and that all animals should be held for a period of time… Of course, those public statements are designed for just that: public consumption. And public consumption means donation dollars…

But when it comes to its private actions, when it comes to meetings behind closed doors with legislators where taking a stand has a life and death difference, HSUS sides with those who want to continue killing with impunity. And if they get their way… that is exactly what will continue to happen: animals will continue… to be killed when there are empty cages and despite rescue groups willing to save them. And they will continue to be marched from the front counter where they are surrendered straight to the kill room…”

He shares that HSUS has stopped bills like this one multiple times. And he shares his experience where a HSUS employee told him the non-profit was going to start voting for no-kill shelters, but lied:

“Despite the fact that HSUS had worked to kill similar bills in Texas, New York, Florida, and elsewhere, I was more optimistic about shelter reform legislation succeeding in Minnesota because two HSUS representatives—a Board member and Jennifer Fearing, the person in charge of sheltering policies for HSUS—personally assured me at a meeting in San Francisco just over a month ago that the days of HSUS claiming “neutrality” …but then working to kill shelter reform legislation were over. They shook my hand, looked me square in the eye, and promised it would come to an end, only to violate that promise a few weeks later at the first opportunity…”

Later while reading about Prop 2, I was surprised to see that Jennifer Fearing was the campaign manager on the “Yes on Prop 2” campaign.

There is a great interview with her in the Capitol Weekly from 2008. She seems like she loves animals, especially her sweet dog. But the language in the interview brings up that the HSUS advertised Prop 2 as cage-free, even thought the prop was written by HSUS and included still included cages.

After more than a year of studying the ag industry, particularly in California, I still feel comfortable relying mostly on a report that was done by a California-based poultry economist for the industry that concluded that the difference in pricing for hens raised in cage-free environments versus in the confining cages this initiative seeks to phase out is less than an additional penny per egg. 

This is important to me because the HSUS deceived the well-meaning public with a proposition last time, which adds to their level of untrustworthiness. She goes on to say:

The only opponents were really facing on this [Prop 2] are the egg industry.

That was in 2008. Today Prop 12 is written by HSUS and their opponents, the egg industry, but the proposition is being advertising as only written by the HSUS.

“Cage-free” Again

The common misconception of “cage-free” is a beautiful idea of hens walking freely on grass, but it is different than the actual definition we’re voting on, which is: 1 to 1.5 square feet of concrete space in a building with no enclosures where hens can’t open their wings or turn around freely.

Like the misleading that happened with Prop 2, Prop 12 is giving the public the impression that the prop offers more than it does. The grassy-chicken-freedom many of us are imagining as “cage-free” is fueled by the ads and even the logo for the Yes on 12 campaign:


Here’s a deeper layer of misleading that is currently happening, which confuses me the most | CCR 1350

I was feeling like Prop 2 was the better option, but then I learned that it may not be being enforced, and not just because no one was appointed to enforce it.

In 2013, five years after Prop 2 passed with 63% of the public’s vote, the California government created California Code Regulation 1350, which covers the same subject as Prop 2, and is contradictory to it.

CCR 1350 defines spatial requirements based on amounts of space instead of animal behavior. It allows 8 hens to be in one cage and receive 116 square inches each, which is less than a square foot, which means they can’t open their wings, which means it contradicted Prop 2, even though Prop 2 had already been approved.

But CCR 1350 also has 8 options of spatial amounts. 1/8th of those options may comply with Prop 2, depending on the size of the hen. But the other 7/8ths do not comply with Prop 2. (The full CCR 1350 and graph is below in the extra reading section)

Prop 2 and CCR 1350 went into effect on the same day, January 1, 2015.

Both laws are being used at the same time even though they are contradictory. (One says they have to have space to spread their wings, the other doesn’t leave them space to spread their wings, except in one of its eight options.)

Is the government allowed to write a law that contradicts a law that the people voted in?

This simultaneous-laws-concept seems to be left unchecked because people who voted for Prop 2 haven’t heard about it. Also, maybe because they wouldn’t know what to do about it if they did.

Also, because the California Department of Food and Agriculture, in charge of CCR 1350, says that 1350 isn’t contradictory to Prop 2, but that they can’t really check because they’re not in charge of enforcing Prop 2.

But no one is currently in charge of enforcing Prop 2.

And, ironically, these are the very people who will be in charge of enforcing Prop 12 if Prop 12 passes.

It is disheartening to me that the California Department of Food and Agriculture who wrote the second law (CCR 1350) which undermined the one on which the public voted (Prop 2) would potentially regulate the new law (Prop 12). It is also disheartening that there are two separate conflicting laws that egg farmers can use right now. Instead of the public being shown that the prop we voted to pass can be ignored, we are being offered a new prop.

But since Prop 2 and CCR 1350 already co-exist, isn’t it possible that Prop 12 could also co-exist with CCR 1350? It seems possible. If you know the answer, will you share it with me?

It’s also disturbing to me that the Voter Ballot Guide doesn’t mention these CCR 1350 regulations. Here is a list of voter guide sites that discuss Prop 12, but do not mention these CCR 1350 regulations:

  • Easy Voter Guide, which is a collaboration by the League of Women Voters Education Fund and the California State Library
  • Democratic Socialists of America LA’s voter guide
  • CA GOP voter guide
  • Fox News’ A Guide to the Propositions on the Nov. 6 Ballot in California
  • LAWebsite.Net made by LA Podcast
  • League of Women Voters Presents Pros and Cons 2018 State Propositions Video
  • Knock L.A. Progressive Voters Guide

Many of those voter guides have been so incredibly helpful to me in other ways, but the only voter guide where I saw CCR 1350 mentioned was I also saw it in the San Francisco Chronicle, but not the LA Times.

What I’d Like 

I’d like to keep Prop 2’s freedom for the hen to move around, vote to eliminate CCR 1350, keep the part of Prop 12 that takes away cages, add a specific ratio of nesting boxes, dust-bathing areas, scratch areas and perches per amount of hens, add an enforcing agency to Prop 2, and vote on the rules of implementation.

The Present Vote | Comparing Prop 2, Prop 12 & CCR 1350

If I compare Prop 12 to Prop 2, I don’t think Prop 12 is as good. I really like moving around. If I were a hen, I could still get a little jail workout with Prop 2. I might be in a pen with some assholes that aggressively won’t let me work out. But Prop 12 still would feel worse to me because I’d be even more claustrophobic, potentially with the same assholes.

If I compare Prop 12 to CCR 1350, I would still get more space with Prop 2, because it in itself is the rule that I’m guaranteed to have enough space to spread my wings. Everything else isn’t that guarantee.

But the problem is that I don’t think egg producers aren’t abiding by either law right now. The CDFA is supposedly enforcing CCR 1350, and the courts said that any law enforcement is capable of and allowed to enforce Prop 2, but in the almost 4 years that Prop 2 has been in effect, it’s only been enforced once.


Last couple of layers | Controlling Out-of-State Farmers

There are other parts of Prop 12 that are also weird, like telling out-of-state egg farmers they can’t sell in California unless they use our rules. That is weird to me because it seems to be illegal to tell other states what they can do. But also because Gov. Schwarzenegger already signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1437 into law in 2010 and it tells out-of-state egg farmers they have to abide by Prop 2.

Prop 12 is literally just edits to Prop 2. So why pretend we’re adding this new idea about out-of-state, when it already exists? What’s the difference between having it as a separate law with Prop 2 or as part of Prop 12?

One might think the reason is so that if people fight the validity of the out-of-state part of Prop 12 after it is in effect, and it turns out not to be valid, that the whole prop would become invalid. But it says right in Prop 12 that if any part of it isn’t constitutional, they’ll cut that part out and the rest will stand. Also, maybe no one but me was thinking that except me. But I’m happy I checked.

Six states are currently suing to fight the validity of Assembly Bill (AB) 1437. The out-of-state part of Prop 12 and AB 1437 seem like a waste of time, money and mental/ emotional/ spiritual resources to me.

I’d like us to focus on what we do have the legal ability to change for the better.

What that is is unclear to me.

What To Do

I really can’t tell which is better, to vote yes or no, only because the whole thing has been so surprising that I wouldn’t be surprised that I’m missing something. I feel like people who are going to the chicken farms and can see what the farmers are actually doing (vs. what they’re supposed to be doing on paper) would know the best next step. If you’d like a trustworthy source on why to vote yes, I enjoyed this blog: Yes on Proposition 12.

This seems like a Lesser of Two Evils situation. It seems people will vote based on their philosophies about that philosophy. One may try to vote for the less of the two evils. Another may think the opposite evil is less. One may be really confused about how to tell which is less in the first place.

But my current philosophy about this philosophy uses the metaphor of relationships. If I’m in a bad relationship, it is unhealthy for me to think, “This is as good as it gets.” If I think, “I haven’t dated, I don’t know if there are better options,” I may never leave to see if there are better options. And staying gives my brain and heart practice with the lesson that trying to live a full life is off-limits. It’s not a healthy muscle to strengthen because then I end up applying it to other situations.

I’m learning to matter. Part of that lesson is learning that when someone gives me two choices, there are probably more options, I just have to give myself permission to ask for them, or to say no to the two choices and trust that in the unknown future, a better option is waiting.

The other part of that lesson is noticing when someone is trustworthy. And knowing that their trustworthiness can change. It’s pliable, so I have to stay mindful and aware. I used to be someone who wanted to have a switch flip and know everything will be okay. But now I see that I need to continuously be mindful about my relationships to keep myself safe and connected. I used to think that was exhausting. Now I see that being mindful is like eating: it’s normal to have to keep doing it.

In this metaphor, I’d be deciding whether to continue a marriage with Prop 2 or get divorced and start dating Prop 12, but find out CCR 1350 got a marriage license with me- even though we’d never met. Whether I stay or go, I’ve got to do something about this weirdo who keeps telling people we’re together when we’re not. Or in non-metaphor words:

Whether I vote no or yes on this prop, the California government has shown they are untrustworthy by undermining the result of the people’s vote. Other laws are upheld with seriousness. The 63% of the people who voted Prop 2 into law didn’t just have their law ignored, they had it defied. As far as I understand, this can happen again. My main take-away from all of this is that I want to continue to pay attention past the vote.

That’s Great, But Seriously, What Do I Do?

To conclude, my opinion is that I support everyone in going with their gut. And the most important part is finding out if the government will uphold the vote afterwards.

If you’re like, f-this, I think there should be no cages no matter what, I totally get it. If you’re like, no way in hell, they need more space, I totally get it. If you’re like this is a shitshow, I still don’t know, AAAAA! I totally get it. Even if you’re like, I don’t care, emotionally, I understand how people can come to that conclusion.

This all seems like a giant distraction with no real change occurring within the government.

Where the change is clearly growing and being nourished is within the public’s level of caring and education. Good on us! That’s hard to do with all of the other parts of life swirling around.

I’m grateful to have learned a lot about the history and present regarding the welfare of the egg-laying hens in California.

This is a living document, meaning, I was passionate about sharing what I’m learning, but will keep adding to it once it’s published because it’s too much information and I’ll never share it otherwise.

If you’d like to read more details about how I got this information, there are more resources, stories, and more of an in-depth background in a longer version below…

I wish you self-care, love, gentleness and nourishment. May we all trust that doing the simplest acts of kindness towards ourselves, like receiving a long-slow breath, can add up to a life we feel grateful to live. Politics isn’t the only answer. The little positive things really can add up.


The extra sections below are for folks who would like more details.

  • Federal District & Superior Courts Decide Prop 2 is Clear
  • Measuring the Birds
  • Two Current Law Options: Prop 2 and/ or CCR 1350
  • Current Law #3


The argument against Prop 2 is that because it doesn’t specify exact amounts of space, it’s too vague and therefore too difficult to enact.

In 2012, egg producers went to the courts to prove that Prop 2 is unconstitutionally vague by filing the lawsuit Cramer v. Harris et al in the Federal District Court for Central District of California. On February 4, 2015 Prop 2’s constitutionality was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In regards to Prop 2’s level of enforceability, the court said:

“Proposition 2 establishes a clear test that any law enforcement officer can apply, and that test does not require the investigative acumen of Columbo to determine if an egg farmer is in violation of the statute.”

The court also said that just because the egg producers don’t like Prop 2 doesn’t mean it’s not constitutional:

“The mere fact that Plaintiff dislikes or disagrees with the policy or language of Proposition 2 is not sufficient to sustain a Constitutional challenge.”

That same year, 2012, another group of egg farmers filed the lawsuit ACEF v. California et al in the Superior Court of California, County of Fresno, also claiming that under the California Constitution, Prop 2 is unconstitutionally vague. But in 2013, the Superior Court dismissed the case, but granted leave to amend. Their response was:

“The fact that the statute defines confinement limitations in terms of animal behaviors rather than in square inches or other precise measurements does not render the statute facially vague.”

The courts were saying Prop 2 is possible. Measure the birds.


There are five species covered in the Prop, and each of those species has hundreds of types.

I spoke with a family farmer at the Hollywood Farmers Market who sells humanely-raised meat, and raises chickens for eggs, but only uses the eggs for her family. She taught me that most commercial egg farmers use one kind of hen to maintain uniformity. They often use White Leg Horn chickens for white eggs, and the larger Rhode Island Red chickens for brown egg production.

Wikipedia chicken types
A few of the many types of chickens

I thought it seemed possible for the farmers, who know what breed they’re using, to evaluate the breed’s wingspan and make space accordingly. But I still wondered if maybe it really was as hard as farmers were saying to find out how to measure the birds.

My family farmer friend said that smaller farms tend to have multiple breeds together free to roam on grass and they have so many less chickens that it would be easy for them to get the breed measurements. She let me know about the websites where she buys her chicks. This little detail made me realize it would be insane for someone to be in the business of egg farming and not know basic information about their product.

It also seemed that going by the size of the different hens would be in the best interest of the hens. I am a human, and so is my friend John, but he is more than a foot taller than me. So with this in mind, going by the wingspan leaves room for different breeds to have space, but also for different sizes of the same breed to have space, for the Johns of the chicken world to have equal wingspan treatment as the Ruths.

I think we live in a society that is used to a one-size fits all mentality. Diet books are for everyone, even though our immune systems, environment, stress-levels, hormones, and genetics are all different. When it comes to care for living things, a one-size-fits-all rule isn’t often realistic or effective. It disrupts the “care” part.

In the case of a Prop 2, I could seeing a chart working though, if they wrote out a slightly above average amount of space for each of the species and each of those breeds.

What I hadn’t thought of was that this animal-behavior based idea could also fit into a chart using math. Joy A. Mench and Richard A. Blatchford, both at the Department of Animal Science and Center for Animal Welfare, University of California, Davis, authored a paper published in Oxford Academic’s Poultry Science in April of 2014, eight months before Prop 2 went into law.

In “Determination of space use by laying hens using kinematic analysis,” the authors share the math formulas for determining the space for a hen to stand, lie down, turn 180 degrees, their wing span, wing flap, and wing flap with a little more give.

I don’t understand math well enough to understand what it is saying. But I’ll share it here anyway. And there is much more info at the link above.

Table 2.

The floor area [cm2 (in2)] used by hens when performing particular behaviors, as well as the height [cm (in)], wingspan [cm (in)], and wing flap floor area [cm2 (in2)] with 2.54 cm (1 in) added to the length and width of the hen

How to Determine laying hen measurements stand turn wingspan wing flap


According to the CA Voter Information Guide, Prop 12 would consider the following illegal:

(1) Before 2020, any amount of space where laying hens can’t spread their wings

(But they can still be in a cage.)

(2) Between 2020 and 2022, any amount of space less than 1 square foot

(Even though now they wouldn’t be able spread their wings and they can still be in a cage.)

(3) Any amount of space less than 1-1.5 square feet and it’s called cage-free, even though it’s similar to what was happening in 2020 and 2021, because it’s not in a cage

(Even though they can’t spread their wings.)

Can’t spread wings or turn around Can be in a cage Limited to one-square foot Limited to one or one and a half square feet
Now until 2020 yes
2020-2022 yes yes yes
2022 on, cage-free yes yes


I thought that the definition of cage-free was the most surprising part to me, but now the “current law” part is the most surprising. Really, the whole thing is a bag of surprises.

In 2013, California wrote out exact numbers of space requirements into the Official California Code of Regulations as CCR 1350. The regulations don’t comply with Prop 2 so I don’t understand how they are legal.

The California Code of Regulation 1350 has a graph with amounts of space and the number of chickens that are allowed to be housed on that space. It ranges from 9 chickens living in 2.23 square feet of space or 1 living in .8 sq feet of space, which would mean none could open their wings. And these regulations of space are allowed to be in a cage. Here is the graph:

§ 1350. Shell Egg Food Safety.


Commencing January 1, 2015, no egg handler or producer may sell or contract to sell a shelled egg for human consumption in California if it is the product of an egg-laying hen that was confined in an enclosure that fails to comply with the following standards. For purposes of this section, an enclosure means any cage, crate, or other structure used to confine egg-laying hens:

(1) An enclosure containing nine (9) or more egg-laying hens shall provide a minimum of 116 square inches of floor space per bird. Enclosures containing eight (8) or fewer birds shall provide a minimum amount of floor space per bird as follows, using formula 322+[(n-1) x 87.3]/n, where “n” equals the number of birds:

Number of Birds Square Inches Per Bird
1 322
2 205
3 166
4 146
5 135
6 127
7 121
8 117

(2) The enclosure shall provide access to drinking water and feed trough(s) without restriction.


For a moment, I’ll refer to Prop 2, the current law that was voted on in 2008, as Current Law #1, and CCR 1350, the current law that was added in 2013, as the Current Law #2.

Current Law #1 was passed in 2008, but was enacted in 2015.

I had originally tried to make sense of it all by wondering,”Maybe Current Law #2 that happened in 2013 stopped being the law when Current Law #1 went into effect in 2015.” But this didn’t end up being the case, because they both were enacted on the same day in 2015.

I couldn’t understand why the CA Voter Ballot Guide refers to Current Law #1 and left out Current Law #2, or why the majority of the arguments about Prop 12 also only use Current Law #1.

I also wondered why The San Francisco Chronicle and BallotFYI bring up Current Law #2 when the others didn’t.

BallotFYI’s only mention said, “California did eventually land on a number for hens: 116 square inches [0.8 sq feet].” But they linked right to the actual law.

If Current Law #1 is in effect, Prop 12 gives much less space, but takes away cages.

If Current Law #2 is in effect, Prop 12 gives more space to birds crammed 5 to 8 in a space, and takes away cages, but gives less space to birds sharing 1-4 in a space, and takes away cages.

The San Francisco Chronicle said of Prop 2, “The animal welfare movement contended [Prop 2] meant space equivalent to the bird’s wingspan — 2 to 3 square feet — but the state Department of Food and Agriculture interpreted it as less than a square foot.”

But the Prop really does say wingspan. It wasn’t an interpretation. How did the Department of Food and Agriculture “interpret” a clear guideline incorrectly and get away with it?

Also, why do singular hens receive the most space? Based on the other misleading, my first instinct is to ask, “Is that to distract the public with positivity about something that rarely happens because the common practice is to put as many as 8 in one space? Why are we still allowing multiple hens in one cage? And again, which law are we using?”

The answers to these questions seem like a huge foundation of what we’re voting on in Prop 12.

I only had an answer to the last one: I hadn’t thought about that Prop 2 says they need to be able to spread their wings without touching another hen, but it didn’t specify that they couldn’t all be in one cage, thus allowing multiple hens in one cage.


The Animal Welfare Institute had another answer: “Currently, producers are using all three interpretations of the law.”

Sigh. A third law? There was Prop 2 and California Code Regulation 1350, and a third law, California legislature AB 1437, added in 2010, which said people selling out-of-state eggs to California had to abide by Prop 2. All three laws went into action on the same day, January 1, 2015.

Quick Review because our heads are going to explode:

  • Prop 2 = spread wings, turn in circle, in a cage, with other hens
  • CCR 1350 = 1 to 8 hens in a cage, different amounts of space for each group
  • AB 1437 = out-of-state producers have to comply with our state laws

The AW Institute also shared, “California’s Department of Food and Agriculture, the entity responsible for enforcing CCR 1350, has stated that it believes CCR 1350 meets the standards of Prop 2, but cannot state this definitively as it is not charged with administering Prop 2.”

Of the eight options in CCR 1350, only one meets the lowest option possibility for Prop 2. If there is one hen in a cage that is 322 square inches, that equals 2.23 square feet and if that hen is the type whose wing span is 2 square feet instead of 3, this scenario meets the standards of Prop 2. The seven other options in CCR 1350 are too small for the average hen wingspan of 2-3 square feet.

Since the California Department of Food and Agriculture is stating they cannot be definitive because they’re not currently in charge of Prop 2 (although if Prop 12 passes, they will be), it’s important to me that they don’t make guesses because that is misleading.


Proposition 12 in full, PDF |

United Egg Producer’s 2017 Cage Free Guidelines, PDF |

Archive of Proposition 2 from 2008, PDF |

California Proposition 2 | Ballotpedia,_Standards_for_Confining_Farm_Animals_(2008)

1350. Shell Egg Safety Food Safety | California Code of Regulations site maintained by Thomson Reuters Westlaw 


Stop the Rotten Egg Initiative |

Yes on 12 |


“Minimum Space Requirements Under Current Law and Proposition 12” | The California Official Voter Information Guide

Proposition 12 – Farm Animal Cages | Voter’s Edge


“Yes on Prop 12. Let’s get rid of cages for hens for real.” | LA Times |

“Live in California and buy eggs? If Voters approve this in 2018, they’ll need to be from cage-free hens” | LA Times |

“The Chronicle Recommends No on Prop. 12” | The San Francisco Chronicle |

“What does ‘cage-free’ mean, exactly?” | The San Francisco Chronicle |


“Why We Oppose California’s Farmed-Animal Initiative and You Should Too” | PETA |

“California’s Egg Regulations: Implications for Producers and ConsumersAgricultural and Resource Economics Update” | Gianni Foundation of Resource Economics | Universitiy of California |

“California Mandates More Space in the Cage for Egg-laying Hens” | Animal Welfare Institute |

“Prop 2 Timeline” | The Humane Society

“Hens Behind Bars, Viva! Hen Laying Factsheet” |

“What does the Humane Society Do?” | The Humane Society

Animal People Newspaper p.12 |

“How Much Space Do My Chickens Need?” | McMurray Hatchery

Criminal Charges brought against California hen factory farm | The Humane Society

Choices in Hen Housing | The United Egg Producers


Bird by Viktor Ostrovsky from the Noun Project

Paper Note by Ben Markoch from the Noun Project

Time by BomSymbols from the Noun Project

Question by Iconika from the Noun Project