AIMS: To determine the proportion of residential land parcels with backyard poultry in an urban and urban-rural fringe area of provincial New Zealand. To document key husbandry and biosecurity practices of owners of backyard poultry, and to identify factors that might assist animal health authorities in locating backyard poultry flocks in the event of an infectious disease emergency.
METHODS: A cross-sectional survey was undertaken, in which residents of 449 land parcels in an urban and urban-rural fringe area within and adjacent to the city of Palmerston North, respectively, were visited between February and November 2006. Residents were asked if backyard poultry were kept on the premises. Details recorded for those that kept poultry included the type and number of birds kept, and details of management and biosecurity practices. The geographical distribution of poultry-positive land parcels was assessed for evidence of spatial clustering.
RESULTS: Backyard poultry were kept on 3.5 (95% CI=2.1– 5.0)% of land parcels; 1.6 (95% CI=0.7–3.4)% in the urban area and 18.9 (95% CI=11.6–29.3)% in the urban-rural fringe area. There were no significant clusters of poultry-positive land parcels in either area. On all poultry-positive parcels birds were allowed, for at least a portion of the day, to range freely over the property. Three poultry-positive land parcels were within a distance of 1 km of a commercial poultry enterprise in the urban-rural fringe area. Most owners of backyard poultry used feed prepared commercially.
CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of ownership of backyard poultry in this area of New Zealand was low, and varied according to classification of the land, viz urban, or urban-rural fringe. The close proximity of backyard flocks to the single commercial enterprise in the urban-rural fringe area reiterates the importance of strict biosecurity measures on commercial farms. In the event of an infectious disease emergency, it is proposed that a sampling frame of owners of backyard poultry might be rapidly obtained by contacting suppliers of commercial feed.
KEY WORDS: Highly pathogenic avian influenza, Newcastle disease, infectious bursal disease, poultry, non-commercial poultry, epidemiology