While this may not come as news to most of you, apparently there are more and more people who are unaware of the fact that chickens can transmit salmonella. We aren’t just talking about undercooked eggs or poultry, but living chickens as well, and with the growing trend of keeping chickens in backyard coops, we are seeing an increase in the cases of exposure from live chicken contact. In part, perhaps a large part, this is because people, who have little to no experience with any sort of livestock, are setting up backyard coops so they can have fresh eggs or poultry and instead of treating chickens like livestock, they end up treating them like pets.
Some of the findings point to the habit, by some people at least, of “kissing” their chickens, letting them into their homes to roam around, and basically cuddling and treating them like they would a puppy. Sure, some people will tell you that all animals are “cute” in their own way, and that they all deserve a certain quality of life, this doesn’t magically negate the inherent risks in disease and contamination that you get when you keep chickens for any reason.
“Outbreaks of Human Salmonella Infections Associated with Live Poultry, United States, 1990–2014
Backyard poultry flocks have increased in popularity concurrent with an increase in live poultry–associated salmonellosis (LPAS) outbreaks. Better understanding of practices that contribute to this emerging public health issue is needed. We reviewed outbreak reports to describe the epidemiology of LPAS outbreaks in the United States, examine changes in trends, and inform prevention campaigns. LPAS outbreaks were defined as ≥2 culture-confirmed human Salmonella infections linked to live poultry contact. Outbreak data were obtained through multiple databases and a literature review. During 1990–2014, a total of 53 LPAS outbreaks were documented, involving 2,630 illnesses, 387 hospitalizations, and 5 deaths. Median patient age was 9 years (range <1 to 92 years). Chick and duckling exposure were reported by 85% and 38% of case-patients, respectively. High-risk practices included keeping poultry inside households (46% of case-patients) and kissing birds (13%). Comprehensive One Health strategies are needed to prevent illnesses associated with live poultry.” ~ CDC
This means that no matter how cute and fluffy a baby chick may be, it is still a risk to dote on them with kisses and rubbing your face on them. That risk is amplified for children, the elderly, or anyone who may have any flaws in their immune system. While raising chickens and other fowl can be educational for kids, they are also the ones most likely to respond to the cuteness o baby chicks by wanting to “snuggle” and kiss them.
Salmonella causes some pretty serious illness and can even cause death depending on the severity of the infection, the age of the person, their health, and so on. So the expert advice for anyone keeping chickens, which I’m hoping is something most off-grid folks already are aware of (and if not, know you will be so please share this information far and wide!), is to wash your hands frequently when dealing with chickens to help kill and remove any bacteria or viruses you may pick up while handling them. Never, I repeat NEVER let chickens into your home!
They are not pets, at least they are not indoor pets and you put yourself and your family at risk by allowing them to simply roam around your house. Cook eggs, and poultry fully to reduce risks even further while making sure to clean any utensils that you use to prepare them thoroughly.
Remember, just as you would take the proper safety measures when installing new wiring, solar panels, water lines, and so on, you need to be aware of the risks if you decide to keep live chickens as part of your self-sufficient lifestyle. They can be a great addition to your food stores, providing a great source of protein with fresh eggs but they need to be handled with care.
Chickens are a great way to supplement your diet. They make great food for emergency situations. They eat bugs and are great to have around your homestead. But with them come real and inherent health risks that can’t be ignored. People in urban settings and suburban neighborhoods should understand these things. People in the country already know because they’ve been working with and raising chickens for years. They know they are not pets, and if they do keep a couple or few as pets they know how to handle them.
But people who are new to raising chickens need to wake up and stop being so stupid with handling and raising animals. Sure it’s rude to say that, but this isn’t about offending people, it’s about getting their attention and letting them know they are endangering their health and the health of their children. It’s about the kids and keeping them healthy.
Chickens are not meant to be pets, they don.t belong inside your house. They are food and they should be handled that way.
If people want them as pets, then keep them outside and wash up well after handling them.
It’s really that simple.