Backyard Poultry – parasites, a dissertation



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.

About David Parsons 19 Articles
David Parsons began his veterinary career in mixed practice which triggered his 39-year passion for poultry. Following positions as a veterinary research officer in the Poultry Department at the government’s Central Veterinary Laboratory and then as a poultry company veterinarian, he set up his own poultry veterinary practice in the southwest of England in 1985. He obtained his MSc in Applied Immunology in 1981, Certificate in Poultry Medicine and Production in 1989 and a Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust to study the“Status of diseases specific to poultry and their control in Europe” in 1991.

He has been an Honorary External Lecturer at the University of Bristol Veterinary School on poultry medicine and production since 1999,a lecturer on the Institute of Animal Health’s poultry disease course since 2000 and is a regular monthly contributor of veterinary articles for backyard poultry keepers in the Practical Poultry magazine.