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Ballot measure fallout: How much space does a chicken need?

Leaders in California's egg industry are asking lawmakers to define just what kind of hen housing they will be able to use. The Association of California Egg Farmers said state Proposition 2, approved by voters in November, is unclear on what housing will be allowed once it takes effect in 2015.

"California egg farmers respect the voters' desire to give egg-laying hens more space," said Debbie Murdock, the group's executive director, in a news release. "Our farmers need clear-cut housing standards to determine how they can comply with the law and to continue to humanely produce fresh, local and affordable eggs in California under Proposition 2."

The measure took aim at standard industry cages with as little as 67 square inches of floor space per hen. It said enclosures would have to have enough room for hens to stretch and turn around without touching the walls or other hens, but no specific dimensions were included.

Merced County accounts for about 40 percent of the state's egg production. Stanislaus County produces 10 percent and San Joaquin 8 percent.

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