In addition to providing birds with nearly twice as much living space, the cages include accessories intended to mimic conditions chickens would encounter in the wild. There are steel perches that replicate branches and boxes that provide private, dark areas for the birds to lay eggs.
The floor of each cage is slanted so that eggs gently roll onto conveyor belts, which haul the eggs into a processing room where they're washed, dried and mechanically inserted into cartons.
"The hens seem to prefer it," Benson said. "They have lower mortality and they produce better."
The company has attempted to sell some of those eggs at a premium by marketing the improved living conditions, but they have not sold well, Benson said. Consumers tend to reach for the cheapest eggs they can find, she said.
Benson and her family are so proud of the new barns that they installed cameras to stream video of the hens live on the Internet.