Half of backyard chicken keepers would not take their sick animals to a vet, according to findings from the Royal Veterinary College.

Half of backyard chicken keepers would not take their sick animals to a vet, according to findings from the Royal Veterinary College.

A small but detailed study of 30 owners in the Greater London area in 2010 found that while backyard chickens tend to be kept in good conditions they are being left vulnerable to disease spread by ignorant keepers.

While the researchers found backyard poultry were being kept in conditions that allowed the animals to perform their natural behaviours, shocking findings include;

  • 75% of flock owners do not realise that feeding kitchen waste to their chickens is not permitted.disease prevention measures such as vaccination and biosecurity were rare.
  • 40% of the flock owners admitted to burying dead poultry in the garden.
  • Many owners were unaware of serious poultry diseases such as Marek’s disease, infectious laryngotracheitis and infectious bronchitis, as well as the threat of zoonoses such as campylobacter.
  • Nearly half of owners said they would not seek veterinary help in case of illness in the chickens.

Chicken keepers care about conditions but are ignorant of diseaseStudy co-author Iveta Karabozhilova said: “Even though evidence from our study shows that flock owners provide enriched living conditions to the chickens, they ought to realise that their pets are a farmed species and are subjected to regulations.
 
“They need to expand their knowledge beyond the diseases for which there has been much publicity, like salmonellosis and avian influenza, and be aware of the fact that some diseases must be reported.”

Ms Karabozhilova said the vet school’s findings also showed a clear communication gap between authorities and chicken keepers.

She said: “Making information available and easily accessible through the most widely used channels is of high priority from a disease control perspective, in particular for notifiable exotic diseases characterised by quick spread and devastating effect, such as avian influenza and Newcastle disease.”

The RVC paper “backyard chicken keeping in the Greater London urban area: welfare status, biosecurity and disease control issues” has been published in the journal British Poultry Science and more information can be found via the publication’s website.

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