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Boom in urban chicken-keepers may be harmful to birds


Urban chicken-keepers risk spreading diseases through their lack of knowledge of animal welfare regulations, research by the Royal Veterinary College has found.

The once rural pastime, popularised by celebrity flock-owners such as Jamie Oliver and Billie Piper has led to a boom in backyard coops, with brands such as Eglu selling pre-packaged kits for new starters.

However, while the study has revealed that backyard chickens kept in the Greater London area generally enjoy good living conditions, many owners have limited awareness of poultry diseases, and prevention measures such as vaccination are rare.

Almost half of flock owners would not seek professional veterinary help should their chickens fall ill and three quarters do not realise that Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs regulations do not permit the feeding of kitchen waste to chickens, which has been outlawed since 2001.

Iveta Karabozhilova, co-author of the report said: "Our findings clearly indicate a communication gap between authorities and chicken keepers. Making information available and easily accessible through the most widely used channels is of high priority from a disease control perspective.

"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."