Backyard Chickens in the United States: Survey of Flock Owners

A survey of almost 1,500 owners of backyard poultry flocks in the US reveals information that may contribute to maintaining good biosecurity and improving the health and welfare of backyard flocks.
calendar icon 10 November 2014
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Although it has become increasingly popular to keep backyard chickens in the United States, few studies have provided information about these flocks, according to Dr Joy Mench. With colleagues at University of California, Davis, she reports in Poultry Science the results of an online survey of backyard chicken owners, which had been advertised through Master Gardeners’ web sites, social platforms and other sites.

The survey had 56 questions about flock history, husbandry, health care and owner attitudes and demographics.

Surveys received (n=1,487) came almost equally from urban, suburban and rural areas.

Most (71 per cent) respondents owned fewer than 10 chickens and had kept chickens for less than five years (70 per cent).

Major reasons for keeping chickens were as food for home use (95 per cent), gardening partners (63 per cent), pets (57 per cent) or a combination of these.

Rural respondents had larger flocks (P≤0.001) and were more likely to keep chickens as a source of income or for show (P≤0.001) than urban and suburban respondents.

Owners thought that eggs/meat from their chickens were more nutritious (86 per cent), safer to consume (84 per cent) and tasted better (95 per cent) than store-bought products, and also that the health and welfare of their chickens was better (95 per cent) than on commercial farms.

The majority (59 per cent) indicated no flock health problems in the last 12 months. However, there was a lack of awareness about some poultry health conditions. Many knew either little or nothing about exotic Newcastle or Marek’s disease, and most (61 per cent) did not vaccinate against Marek’s.

Respondents wanted to learn more about various flock management topics, especially how to detect (64 per cent) and treat (66 per cent) health problems.

The Internet was the main source of information (87 per cent) used by backyard flock owners, followed by books/magazines (62 per cent) and feed stores (40 per cent).

Minimising predation was the most cited challenge (49 per cent), followed by providing adequate feed at low cost (28 per cent), dealing with soil management (25 per cent) and complying with zoning regulations (23 per cent).

The Davis-based team concluded the evidence obtained from their survey will help to determine what information and resources are needed to maintain good biosecurity and improve the health and welfare of backyard flocks.


Elkhoraibi C., R.A. Blatchford, M.E. Pitesky and J.A. Mench. 2014. Backyard chickens in the United States: A survey of flock owners. Poultry Science. 93 (11): 2920-2931. doi: 10.3382/ps.2014-04154

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.

November 2014

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