Patterns of poultry exposure in rural and urban areas in China have not been systematically evaluated and compared. The objective of our study is to investigate patterns in human exposure to poultry in rural and urban China. We conducted a two-stage household-based clustered survey on population exposure to live/sick/dead poultry in Xiuning and Shenzhen. Half of the rural households (51%) in Xiuning raised poultry, mostly (78%) free-range. Around half of those households (40%) allowed poultry to stay in their living areas. One quarter of villagers reported having contact with sick or dead poultry. In Shenzhen, 37% urban residents visited live poultry markets. Among these, 40% purchased live poultry and 16% touched the poultry or cages during purchase. Our findings indicated that human exposure to poultry was different in rural and urban areas in China. This discrepancy could contribute to the observed differences in epidemiologic characteristics between urban and rural cases of influenza A(H7N9) and A(H5N1) virus infection.