The BVA has said steps are being taken to educate vets and students in poultry welfare and medicine protocols, following an increase in the number of people keeping pet chickens.

Chickens are the sixth most popular pet in the UK, according to a survey by the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association. Image: Peeranat Thongyotee / Fotolia

The organisation added its voice to the discussion after a Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) survey revealed chickens as the sixth most popular pet in the UK.

BVA junior vice-president John Fishwick said pet and backyard hens were becoming an increasingly important part of UK vets’ caseload in the UK.

He said: “Treatment can be challenging in some cases, not least as there are few properly licensed drugs available for pet hens available in small quantities. There can also be issues with owners not always being fully aware of some of the husbandry needs of hens.”

Training trend

However, Mr Fishwick said the increase in popularity of chickens had been reflected in the training offered by veterinary schools.

He added: “Training in poultry medicine is included in all veterinary degree courses and there has most definitely been a trend in recent years to include specific training on pet poultry teaching, as well as purely commercial poultry production.

“Veterinary schools include specific training and assessment on the correct handling of individual hens with an emphasis on reducing stress in the hen. There are also instances of more specialist training being offered in the final year of veterinary degrees in pet farm animals, including hens, and poultry medicine.”

Pet-poultry CPD

Mr Fishwick said another positive development had been what he described as “some really excellent” pet-poultry CPD being made available, with the BVA due to run a course on this in 2017.

He added: “There is no doubt this is a trend that is increasing and the profession needs to continue to keep well informed and able to deal with these important patients. Any moves to increase awareness and education within the profession is very much to be encouraged.”

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