Free-range houses allow chickens to move around freely, but operating costs were 23 percent higher than for traditional cages, according to a new study. Dan Charles/NPR hide caption itoggle caption Dan Charles/NPR The Salt Cramped Chicken Cages Are Going Away. What Comes Next? March 19, 2015 The results are in from a long-running study of three different ways to house egg-laying chickens. It found that more hens survive in cages, and cages are cheaper. But consumers prefer cage-free eggs.