Understanding normal movement patterns and husbandry practices of poultry production systems is important for understanding the dynamics of disease spread, and for controlling outbreaks of highly infectious diseases, such as highly pathogenic avian influenza. To learn about these patterns in the noncommercial or “backyard” poultry-keeping sector, an open-ended questionnaire was administered to 18 backyard-flock owners in British Columbia, Canada, and responses were analyzed descriptively. Six participants reported that they visited premises that were part of the commercial poultry system in the last year; however, bird movements between commercial and noncommercial farms were always unidirectional, from commercial to backyard. Bird movements into and out of participants' flocks occurred multiple times per month (two flocks), three times per year (five flocks), once or twice a year (nine flocks) and every 3–5 yr (two flocks). Visitors had direct contact with three participants' flocks multiple times per week; for other flocks, visitors had direct contact three times or less per year. Fourteen participants rarely had direct contact with other backyard flocks, three had contact more than once per week, and one had contact every 3 mo. Participants stated that the health of their birds was excellent 7, very good 3, good 6, O.K. 1, and all right 1, and used a median of two biosecurity practices to maintain health in their flock. Our findings suggest that bird movements are not likely to transmit disease from backyard to commercial flocks; however, human movements between backyard and commercial premises could transmit diseases. Within the backyard-flock sector, the majority of small flocks appear to pose little risk of disease transmission because they are maintained in semi-isolation from other flocks; however, a minority of flocks has high contact levels with other flocks and could be important in disease spread.
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Vol. 55 • No. 3