Main content area

Evaluation of Maryland Backyard Flocks and Biosecurity Practices

Madsen, Jennifer M., Zimmermann, Nickolas G., Timmons, Jennifer, Tablante, Nathaniel L.
Avian diseases 2013 v.57 no.2 pp. 233-237
biosecurity, chickens, demographic statistics, disease prevention, epidemiological studies, flocks, health status, issues and policy, mortality, outreach, poultry diseases, predation, questionnaires, risk, waterfowl, zoonoses, Maryland
Domesticated poultry are susceptible to infectious and zoonotic diseases and can serve as a transmission source to other bird and human populations. In recent years, the number of noncommercial poultry has been on the rise in the United States. To evaluate potential risks of this growing population, a descriptive epidemiologic survey was conducted among Maryland backyard flocks. Owner and flock demographics were characterized as well as management practices such as husbandry, human-to-bird interaction, bird exposure risks, poultry health status, and biosecurity. Data from the 41 returned questionnaires indicated a median flock size of 38 birds (range, 3–901). Chickens accounted for 86.5% of the reported birds overall. Just over half of the owners (51.2%) kept chickens only, with the remaining backyard flocks consisting of chickens, other gallinaceous species, waterfowl, or a combination. Of flocks with multiple species, 70.0% of owners did not keep them separate. Almost two thirds of owners (61.0%) had kept poultry for ≤5 yr, with 44.0% of all flocks on free range. Over the past 2 yr, predation was the highest cause of specific mortality (57.1%) followed by disease (30.2%), unknown (8.7%), and injury (4.0%), and over half of owners (56.1%) reported signs of disease in their flock within the last 6 mo. Biosecurity practices were highly variable among flocks. Data from this study identified gaps in the disease prevention and biosecurity practices of backyard flocks. These results can be useful in developing educational extension and outreach programs as well as policies, in efforts to further mitigate the spread of diseases.