This dissertation is provided courtesy of Dr. Damer Blake, Pathology and Infectious Disease Department, and Laura Langstaff, Veterinary Student of the Royal Veterinary College
Awareness of chicken parasites among backyard chicken keepers, commercial producers and vets
Laura Langstaff and Dr Damer Blake,
Royal Veterinary College
Research indicates that parasite burdens are high in commercially produced and backyard chickens, creating major welfare and economic issues, however, research into how aware people are of suitable treatment and prevention protocols is lacking. The present study had three main objectives, firstly, to determine whether there was an association between awareness of chickens parasites and group (backyard chicken keepers, vets in general practice and commercial chicken producers). Secondly, to investigate factors influencing awareness of parasites and, finally, to gather information on husbandry and management procedures relating to chickens.
Three questionnaires were designed, one for each group, but all contained one common section which asked questions regarding recognition, treatment and prevention of lice, mites, worms and coccidiosis in chickens. Questionnaires were advertised on internet forums and websites and paper copies were sent to vet practices which yielded 143 responses from backyard keepers, 103 from vets and 15 from commercial producers. Each questionnaire was marked and respondents were classified as having a high or low awareness of parasites in general and also as being aware or not aware of each individual parasite type.
It was found that there was an association between group and awareness, with commercial producers tending to have a low level of awareness and being less aware of individual parasites. This may be because backyard keepers and vets encounter a more diverse range of parasites since commercial chickens do not live long and housing is thoroughly cleaned between batches. For the backyard keepers, low chicken numbers were associated with low awareness, whereas experience and sufficiency of parasite teaching were associated with awareness for vets. It was concluded that awareness levels could be improved in all three groups to reduce parasite burdens and consequently improve welfare and production in chickens.