Salmonella, Chicks and You

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Salmonella safety and enjoying your backyard chickens.  Three words to remember :

WASH YOUR HANDS!

 

 

We have had the question presented to us  ” can I get salmonella from my chickens”.  The answer to that question is technically “yes” according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

While most of us are familiar with precautions and contracting salmonella from tainted meat it is also possible (while remote) to get salmonella from live birds.  The most important thing to remember when handling live birds is to keep your hands away from your face and mouth until you have the opportunity to wash them.

Salmonella can be found in the intestines of many animals especially poultry and reptiles.  Even organically fed poultry can have Salmonella.   From the feces of our birds the salmonella germs can get on their feathers, feet, eggs from the nest boxes and other parts of their body.  It can also contaminate their environment where we can pick it up on our shoes and clothing as well as our hands.

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When raising backyard chickens we naturally have a close relationship with our poultry.  Children especially enjoy picking up and cuddling fluffy baby chicks, many times next to their faces (although I have been know to cuddle a few of mine).   Salmonella infection usually isn’t life-threatening. However, in certain people — especially infants and young children, older adults, transplant recipients, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems — the development of complications can be dangerous.

According to the CDC the following are guidelines on how to protect you and your family when handling live birds:

  • DO
    • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available.
      • Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
      • Wash hands after removing soiled clothes and shoes.
    • If you collect eggs from the hens, thoroughly cook them, as Salmonella can pass from healthy looking hens into the interior of normal looking eggs.
    • Clean any equipment or materials associated with raising or caring for live poultry outside the house, such as cages or feed or water containers.
    • If you have free-roaming live poultry, assume where they live and roam is contaminated
  • DON’T
    • Don’t let children younger than 5 years of age, older adults, or people with weak immune systems handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry.
    • Don’t eat or drink in the area where the birds live or roam.
    • Don’t let live poultry inside the house, in bathrooms, or especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios.
    • In recent outbreaks of Salmonella infections linked to contact with live poultry, ill people reported bringing live poultry into their homes.

Signs of Salmonella infection:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Abdominal cramps

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I have been around poultry most of my life and have never had or seen a case of salmonella from handling live birds, however, that is not to say it doesn’t happen.  I just wanted to provide this page as information on how to help avoid salmonella contamination.  If you retain only one thing from this article it should be:

WASH YOUR HANDS,

WASH YOUR HANDS,

WASH YOUR HANDS!

And by all means enjoy your backyard chickens!

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