Monthly Archives: June 2013

Major US Study on Backyard Flocks

Through my many associations, I become aware of studies and surveys on all things chicken.  Recently, I had a study passed on to me that dealt with the demographics of backyard poultry owners.  It was performed by the National Animal Health Monitoring System, an arm of the US Department of Agriculture.  They talked about the need to know about the location and number of backyard flocks in terms of disease control (they ARE an animal health monitoring system….it’s what they do) but what interested me most was the demographic of the typical American Backyarder.  Surveys were performed in Miami, Denver, LA and New York.

Here are a few highlights from the study:

 Overall, 0.8 percent of all households (0.6 percent of all households excluding single-family homes on 1 acre or more) owned chickens. Chickens were owned on 4.3 percent of single-family homes on 1 acre or more. Excluding single-family homes on 1 acre or more, the percentage of households with chickens ranged from 0.1 percent in New York City to 1.3 percent in Miami.

 While less than 1 percent of households had chickens, nearly 4 percent of households without chickens planned to have chickens within the next 5 years, illustrating the growing acceptance of urban farming (range: 2.0 percent of households in New York City to 7.4 percent in Denver).

 Overall, about 4 of 10 respondents were in favor of allowing chickens in their communities and would not mind if their neighbors owned chickens (44.4 and 39.3 percent, respectively). These percentages were inversely related to the age of the respondent. Denver had the highest percentage of respondents in favor of allowing chickens in the community (62.5 percent).

 Although over half of respondents (55.6 percent) believed that chickens in urban areas will lead to more illnesses in humans, 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 for you than eggs purchased at a grocery store. Denver respondents were the least likely to believe that chickens in urban areas will lead to more illnesses in humans.

Like any research paper on statistics, this one was dry reading, and some of the inferences could be questioned, but I found it fascinating that a) backyard chickens are a large enough sector to attract the interest of a national agency b) that the projected increase in backyard flocks is over 400% in the next 5 years, and c) that it is younger people that are driving the trend of having urban chickens.  All these factors point to a strong future for the backyard chicken movement in the future.

Mike the Chicken Vet