Both battery and free-range hens come from hatcheries, where after chicks are sexed in both industries all the males are destroyed. Additionally they all undergo debeaking and force molting, where they’re starved for about two weeks to trick their bodies into starting another egg laying cycle.
One investigation by Jewel Johnson of a cage-free farm resulted in her discovery of what the lives of 10,000 cage free hens were really like.
“The floor under my feet was cement, and the building was freezing cold with no heat in early April. I couldn’t see much for hens at all down the shed…it was just too dark. All I could see was black, all I could hear was crying of hens, all I could smell was ammonia – it was a cold, black cement hell,” she said.
Thankfully in the Iowa City area there are a number of egg sources that don't treat their chickens this way. My best advice now is "buyer beware", buy locally and get to know your food producer.