Urban chickens a growing phenomenon

Urban chickens a growing phenomenon

ALTHOUGH urban chicken flocks are not part of the commercial poultry industry, they sometimes provide chicken meat and eggs to local food systems such as farmers markets, according to a recent report on urban chicken ownership from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS).

Urban chickens represent an avian population for which very little information is available, NAHMS said, noting that an understanding of urban chicken ownership statistics could be important in the event of a disease outbreak.

As part of its "Poultry 2010" study, NAHMS determined the percentage of households in four U.S. metro areas — Denver, Colo.; Los Angeles, Cal.; Miami, Fla., and New York City — that owned chickens and described the residents' opinions about raising chickens in urban settings.

Throughout metro areas, chicken ownership laws and regulations vary by city, county and neighborhood, NAHMS noted, explaining that some cities and homeowner's associations have specific rules about chicken ownership, while others, such as Los Angeles, permit chicken ownership with no limitations on the number or type of chickens.

The urban chicken component of "Poultry 2010" was conducted in two phases. In phase I, urban chicken owners that purchased chicken feed in feed stores completed a questionnaire addressing bird health, movement and biosecurity practices for their flocks.

NAHMS recently released information from phase II of the urban chicken study. Due to funding limitations, only Los Angeles was initially selected for Phase II during 2010, andDenver, Miami and New York City were surveyed in 2012.

NAHMS highlighted a few findings from the study:

* Overall, 0.8% of all households owned chickens. When single-family homes with one acre of land or more were excluded from this estimate, 0.6% of households owned chickens. Overall, 4.3% of single-family homes on one acre or more owned chickens (Table 1).

Single-family homes on one acre or more are frequently found on the outskirts of cities rather than in urban areas, NAHMS said. Nevertheless, some single-family homes on one acre or more fell within the boundaries of this study's defined metro areas. Excluding single-family homes on one acre or more, the percentage of households with chickens ranged from 0.1% in New York City to 1.3% in Miami.

* While fewer than 1% of households had chickens, nearly 4% of all households without chickens planned to have chickens within the next five years (Table 2), illustrating the growing acceptance of urban farming (range: 2% of households in New York City to 7.4% in Denver).

* Overall, about four of 10 respondents were in favor of allowing chickens in their communities (44.4%) and said they would not mind if their neighbors owned chickens (39.3%). These percentages were inversely related to the age of the respondent, NAHMS pointed out. Denver had the highest percentage of respondents in favor of allowing chickens in the community (62.5%).

* Although more than half of respondents (55.6%) believed that having chickens in urban areas will lead to more illnesses in people, about two-thirds of respondents in Los Angeles, Miami and New York City and three-fourths of respondents in Denver believed that eggs from home-raised chickens are better than eggs purchased at a grocery store. Denver respondents were the least likely to believe that having chickens in urban areas will lead to more illnesses in people.

 

1. Percentage of households that own chickens, by housing type and by city

 

-% of households (std. error)-

Housing type

Denver

Los Angeles

Miami

New York City

Four cities

Single-family home on 1 acre or more

3.5 (1.8)

5.5 (1.9)

3.1 (1.5)

3.1 (3.0)

4.3 (1.2)

Single-family home on < 1 acre

0.7 (0.2)

1.1 (0.2)

1.6 (0.5)

0.0 (—)

0.8 (0.1)

Multifamily dwelling with 20 or more units

0.3 (0.3)

0.5 (0.5)

0.9 (0.4)

0.0 (—)

0.2 (0.1)

Multifamily dwelling with < 20 units

0.8 (0.5)

1.1 (0.7)

0.8 (0.6)

0.1 (0.1)

0.5 (0.2)

Other

0.0 (—)

0.0 (—)

3.7 (2.6)

2.8 (1.9)

1.9 (1.1)

All households excluding single-family homes on 1 acre or more*

0.6 (0.2)

1.0 (0.2)

1.3 (0.3)

0.1 (0.1)

0.6 (0.1)

All households*

0.7 (0.2)

1.2 (0.2)

1.7 (0.4)

0.2 (0.1)

0.8 (0.1)

*Includes respondents who did not report housing type.

 

2. Of households that do not currently own chickens, percentage that plan to own chickens in the next five years, by housing type and by city

 

-% of households (std. error)-

Housing type

Denver

Los Angeles

Miami

New York City

Four cities

Single-family home on 1 acre or more

10.5 (3.2)

5.6 (1.9)

3.0 (1.5)

4.0 (2.0)

5.3 (1.1)

Single-family home on < 1 acre

9.2 (0.7)

6.0 (0.7)

4.0 (0.7)

2.8 (0.7)

5.7 (0.4)

Multifamily dwelling with 20 or more units

2.0 (1.3)

1.3 (0.6)

2.3 (0.9)

1.1 (0.5)

1.4 (0.3)

Multifamily dwelling with < 20 units

5.7 (1.4)

3.0 (1.0)

1.9 (0.9)

2.3 (0.6)

2.7 (0.5)

Other

10.6 (5.9)

0.0 (—)

2.1 (2.0)

2.9 (2.1)

2.7 (1.3)

All households excluding single-family homes on 1 acre or more*

7.4 (0.6)

4.6 (0.5)

3.1 (0.5)

2.0 (0.3)

3.8 (0.2)

All households*

7.4 (0.6)

4.6 (0.5)

3.0 (0.5)

2.0 (0.3)

3.8 (0.2)

*Includes respondents who did not report housing type.

 

Necrotic vaccine

Necrotic enteritis, which causes lesions in the intestines of poultry that result in severe illness and even death, is caused by Clostridium perfringens. Research has shown that the bacterium produces the NetB toxin, and much of the disease is caused by the effects of this toxin.

Researchers at the University of Exeter in the U.K., in collaboration with Ghent University in Belgium and Birkbeck College at the University of London, have unraveled the molecular structure of the NetB toxin.

Exchanging crucial amino acids in the NetB toxin using molecular biology techniques has enabled the researchers to identify a nontoxic form of NetB. They discovered that immunization with nontoxic NetB results in protection against necrotic enteritis. This research was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and in Vaccine.

"Necrotic enteritis is a major concern for the poultry farming industry worldwide, and poultry producers are waiting for ... a vaccine," University of Exeter professor Richard Titball said. "Our work will pave the way for the development of a vaccine that will help farmers tackle this devastating disease."

Sergio Fernandes da Costa from the University of Exeter said, "This is a tremendous step toward developing a necrotic enteritis vaccine that will control this disease in the future. We are working closely with the animal health industry to develop a product that can be efficiently given to entire poultry flocks in feed or water."

 

Magnesium bioavailability

University of Arkansas animal science students Brandon Smith, Ashley Young, Elizabeth Backes and Taylor Drane and professor Ken Coffey have been working with James Caldwell from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., on a study to determine the magnesium bioavailability from red lime.

Magnesium bioavailability is determined by measuring the difference in the amount of magnesium an animal consumes and then excretes in its urine and feces. The amount the animal retains in its body shows how available that particular mineral is.

Magnesium is stored in the bones and plays an important role in metabolism. It is necessary to include magnesium in animal feed because having too little can cause adverse effects.

Magnesium oxide, the standard magnesium supplement, is highly unpalatable and can cause diarrhea if consumed in excess. Red lime also contains magnesium carbonate, which is used as a soil additive to increase amounts of magnesium found in the soil. Magnesium carbonate would have much greater value as a mineral source for livestock, but the bioavailability of the magnesium from the magnesium carbonate is unknown.

"This study could give producers and feed manufacturers other options for meeting the magnesium needs of livestock," said Coffey, a professor in the department of animal science.

For this study, animals were adapted to their diets for a period of 10 days to allow them to stabilize and for their bodies to reach a steady state for magnesium. Then, total feces and urine were collected for seven days.

A coarser-ground and a finer-ground magnesium carbonate were used to determine if particle size influenced bioavailability. In the next few months, the samples and collected data will be analyzed to determine the potential benefit of using red lime as a source of magnesium in animal feed.

Volume:85 Issue:26

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