Chickens are now the UK’s sixth most popular pet, but the majority of vets are “dumbfounded” when presented with a poorly bird in their surgery, it has been claimed.

Pet chicken
Practical Poultry features a “chicken-friendly vet list” of practices. Image: aetb / Fotolia.

The increasing modern popularity of domestic fowl has been highlighted in a pet population report from the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association.

Its survey showed half a million domestic fowl are kept as pets in the UK behind dogs (8.5 million), cats (7.5 million), outdoor fish (20 million), indoor fish (16 million) and rabbits (0.8 million).

Chicken-friendly list

Chris Graham, editor of Practical Poultry, said vets were seeing more domestic chickens and, due to so few vets having in-depth knowledge of individual chicken health, the magazine features a “chicken-friendly vet list” of practices.

He said: “We publish the chicken-friendly vet list because many vets know next to nothing about hens, so are dumbfounded when presented with a poorly bird at their surgery.

“The list features practices that have practical experience with – and good, working knowledge of – chickens, so readers know taking their birds to one of them will result in an authoritative diagnosis and treatment plan.”

He added the RCVS had introduced more specialist chicken-related training in its syllabus to help address the knowledge gap due to the increasing number kept as pets.

Responsibility

Stephen Lister, an RCVS-recognised specialist in poultry medicine and production, said it was vital the profession took its responsibilities seriously in addressing the health and welfare of all poultry – from those kept as companions or for show, to those for small-scale “backyard” production or in larger commercial settings.

One issue, he said, is while interest in poultry ownership was increasing, it meant hens were often kept by people with little or no experience or knowledge of how to keep them in a domestic setting.

Mr Lister said: “That is not to criticise such keepers, but to demonstrate how important it is for the profession to step up and engage as guardians of the health and welfare of animals in society.”

  • Read the full story in the 31 October issue of Veterinary Times.
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