Raising backyard chickens is an ever-growing hobby in the United States. These flocks can be a substrate for respiratory disease amplification and transmission to commercial facilities. Five hundred fifty-four chickens from 41 backyard flocks were sampled in this study. ELISA kits were used to detect antibodies against avian influenza (AI), infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT), Newcastle disease (ND), infectious bronchitis (IB), Ornithobacterium rhinotracheale (ORT), Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG), and Mycoplasma synoviae (MS). All visited flock owners answered a biosecurity questionnaire that assessed biosecurity measures. The questionnaire revealed that backyard poultry owners lack simple biosecurity measures such as use of dedicated shoes, their chicken sources are unreliable, and few of them benefit from veterinary oversight. Only one flock had a clear vaccination history against ND and IB. ORT, ND, IB, MS, MG, and ILT were the most seroprevalent in backyard poultry flocks with 97% (41/42), 77.5% (31/40), 75% (30/40), 73% (31/42), 69% (29/42), and 45% (19/42), respectively. The vaccinated flock was not considered in these calculations. When examining the distance between backyard flocks and the nearest commercial poultry facility, ND and MG were significantly more likely to be found in backyard flocks close to (<4 miles) whereas ORT was significantly more likely in backyard chickens located far from (>4 miles) commercial poultry. Birds purchased directly from National Poultry Improvement Plan hatcheries showed a reduced ND, MG, and MS antibody prevalence. Wearing dedicated shoes decreased MS antibody-positive birds. Finally, history of wild bird contact had a clear effect on an increased seroprevalence of NDV and MG. Serological results suggest that backyard poultry flocks have the potential to serve as a reservoir or amplifier for poultry respiratory diseases. The information generated in this project should direct extension efforts toward emphasizing the importance of small flock biosecurity and chick acquisition sources.
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Vol. 62 • No. 1