The aim of this study was to determine the potential association between housing type and multiple drug resistance (MDR) in Escherichia coli and Enterococcus faecalis isolates recovered from 283 laying-hen flocks. In each flock, a cloacal swab from four hens was collected and produced 1102 E. coli and 792 E. faecalis isolates. Broth microdilution was used to test susceptibility to antimicrobials. Country and housing type interacted differently with the MDR levels of both species. In the E. coli model, housing in a raised-floor system was associated with an increased risk of MDR compared to the conventional battery system [odds ratio (OR) 2·12, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1·13–3·97)]. In the E. faecalis model the MDR levels were lower in free-range systems than in conventional battery cages (OR 0·51, 95% CI 0·27–0·94). In Belgium, ceftiofur-resistant E. coli isolates were more numerous than in the other countries.