Can Backyard Chickens make you sick?

Hi everyone!! I hope your summer has been well and that you packed all the fun into it as humanly possible. I know I have been absent for a while, its been a busy summer. Its funny how the summer months can turn an average functioning family into a frenzy. Well that is what summer has been like for us, been busy with activities and of course keeping up what the girls, growing and harvesting season. With the majority of the gardens work behind me I wanted to take the time to touch on a subject that I have been asked by several of my followers. Can owning backyard chickens make you sick?

Earlier this month the CDC released an article/report that backyard chickens are responsible for salmonella outbreaks across the country. Sickening people even sending some to the hospital, but so far no deaths have occured, well that’s good. As fear reddening as this sounds I want to take the time and put my two cents in and tell my side of the story as a backyard chicken keeper.

The long and short of it is Yes, backyard chickens can make you sick, but so can your cat, dog, and pet parrot. You see any animal that lays eggs carries the salmonella bacteria, this include, pet turtles, snakes, bearded dragons, and of course backyard chickens. It is a bacteria that all egg laying animals/reptiles carry in their body. This is why it is advisable that one wash your hands good with soap and water after handling. It a pretty simple common sense step to take to avoid illness after contact with pets that can carry the salmonella bacteria. Not that this gets your cat and dog off free and easy without incident. Cats and dogs especially if they are allowed to run free outside can also make you sick. They too can come into contact with pathogens that can be transmitted to you. So really your small flock of backyard chickens are no more dangerous to your health then fluffy or fido.

So why does the CDC single out backyard chickens? Well, I think that the answer is two fold. One, keeping backyard chickens has a direct impact on the factory farm producers of eggs and for some, meat for the table. When consumers take it upon themselves to have a say in where their food comes from the big factory farm producers take a big hit.

It does not help their matters that the backyard chicken movement has exploded by leaps and bounds. Keeping backyard chickens is no more common than a family having a dog roaming the backyard. Even cities have passed laws to allow residents to keep a small number of hens in the small plots behind their homes. Its a movement that is growing every year which is one reason why people like me who blog about backyard chickens are seeing an huge increase in readers. Potential keepers are seeing out information on how to care and sustain a small backyard flock, this is where people like me come into play.

Secondly, I think part of the problem is that people are cuddling their chickens like they would a cat or dog and innevertatnly getting sick in the process. The CDC is right when they state that you should not kiss your pet chickens or allow young kids to hold chicks. This is because young children have an increase risk of putting their hands in their mouths after interacting with chicks. But this same rule can be applied to any pet, not just backyard chickens.

So, what is my stance you may be asking? Well to put it simply, wash your hands! I have been a keeper of backyard chickens for almost 10 years now, I have never become sick due to handling or having contact with my flock. The only chicken I have contracted illness from and took ill was from chicken that I ordered at a restaurant.

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My girls have never made me sick in anyway or caused any ill effect in the entire time I have been keeping chickens. Protecting yourself and your family from illness takes nothing more than a common sense approach. Whenever I come inside from interacting the girls the first thing I do is wash my hands well with soap and water. I don’t need to submerge my self in alcohol or bleach, a simple thorough hand washing is all that is needed. Additionally, I only wear my “coop” cloths into the backyard when interacting with my girls. Not only is this just a good common sense move, it keeps me from getting my nice cloths dirty. Chickens can be messy so I would not want to wear nice cloths to the backyard anyway. So wearing cloths that I don’t mind getting dirty that I wear no where else and take off and put directly in the washer after coming inside is nothing more than common sense.

So as you can see just taking simple steps after spending time with the girls is all that is needed. One need not be afraid to own or handle backyard chickens because all that is needed to protect yourself a simple act of washing your hands well after contact.

Now, as far as kissing backyard chickens this is probably advice well worth taken. I love my girls, but I never kiss them for several reasons. Chickens are very interested in human eyeballs, they look like treats to them, I cannot tell you how many times I have seen pics of people on facebook after getting pecked in the eye by their chicken. It hurts and in some cases and cause irreversible damage. So to keep my eyes safe I keep my face well out of the way of the curiosity of a chicken. It just makes perfect sense.

Secondly, kissing your chicken can be hazardous for your health. I know that a lot of people do, but the line stops there for me. I will tell my girls how much a love them and how pretty they are but my lips are never laid on them. They live outside bathe in dirt and can carry some pathogens on their feathers that I would rather not have in my mouth. So, my love line stops there, I do not kiss my birds. So, yes, backyard chickens can make you sick but the routes to avoid this are very simple and only require soap, water, and facial/eyeball distance.

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So, enjoy your backyard birds just make sure to wash your hands and keep your eyes and lips away from their curious beaks. If you practice good hygienic common sence your will have a very happy relationship with your girls enjoying all the benefits of having backyard chickens.

Till next time, keep on crowing.

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

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