An increasing number of people around the country are choosing to keep poultry—like chickens and ducks—as part of the local foods movement. Many people consider them pets, going as far as naming their birds. When I was growing up in rural Texas, we had chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and even guinea fowl. And each one had a name.
Poultry love the outdoors. They explore the yard, hunt for bugs and other goodies, and scratch the ground. While doing this, they can pick up germs like Salmonella, which they can also spread around the environment where they roam. Baby poultry can get Salmonella germs from mother birds and spread those germs soon after hatching. Salmonella germs naturally live in the intestines of poultry and many other animals, such as reptiles, amphibians, and rodents. While Salmonella germs usually don’t make poultry sick, they can cause serious illness when passed to people. These germs can live in the environment for long periods—sometimes years. The last place you want Salmonella germs to settle in is your home.
To decrease the chance of Salmonella germs making their way into your home and causing illness, it’s important to keep live poultry outside of your home. Keeping poultry outside helps ensure that these harmful germs can’t contaminate your home and spread illness to your family.
Baby poultry need to be kept in warm conditions, but that doesn't mean you need to bring them into your home. Some poultry sneak indoors when they have the opportunity, and some people treat their poultry like cats or dogs and bring them indoors when temperatures drop. Regardless of the reason for bringing poultry inside your home, it puts you, your family, and anyone who visits your home at risk for Salmonella infection.
Chicken diapers aren’t enough to contain Salmonella germs. Poultry feathers and feet can have Salmonella germs on them that are too tiny to see with your eyes. Birds can appear clean and healthy but be covered in germs that can make people sick—even when they're wearing diapers.
Just like washing your hands after handling raw poultry in the kitchen, it is important to wash your hands immediately after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Germs on hands can easily spread to other people.
While you enjoy the benefits of backyard chickens and other poultry, it’s important to know how to prevent illness from germs like Salmonella. Remember, for young children, Salmonella infection is a big risk for making them sick. The good news is that you can follow these simple steps to reduce the risk of getting sick from your backyard poultry. A veterinarian with training to take care of poultry is a great resource for more information about preventing Salmonella infection in people and protecting your birds’ health.
Learn more about infections that can pass from animals to humans at www.cdc.gov/zoonotic/gi
Learn more about how to protect yourself and your flock by following our blog!