If your City Council ever gives you the argument that chickens carry disease, just refer them to Douglas Anderson. He ought to know. He is the veterinary director of the Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network, and poultry is Georgia’s largest agricultural industry.
Anderson told the University of Georgia’s Poultry Disease Research Center on Monday that backyard poultry flocks have not been the disease threat to commercial growers that many feared. “They aren’t maybe the demon that we thought they were,” he said.
The laboratory works with Georgia’s huge commercial poultry industry to keep flocks healthy, but a growing part of that involves working with those growing birds outside the high-volume commercial poultry economy. In fact, the flocks can be a valuable source of information for veterinarians keeping an eye out for bird-borne diseases that could be a threat to animal or even human health, Anderson said.
Chickens kept in backyard settings do get disease, but genetic fingerprinting tests have shown the bacterial strains in backyard birds are different from those found in commercial flocks, he said. The poultry industry and backyard enthusiasts can, Anderson said, “peacefully coexist and learn from each other.”