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 riddening 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 seeking 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 you 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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Bumble foot

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Along with the fun of raising backyard chickens there are times when care needs to be taken to assure the well being of our feathered friends. Last summer I had a few of my girls come down with a condition called bumble foot. I know its a funny sounding word, what it basically amounts to is an infection in the pad of their foot. Now, the chicken has an amazing ability to heal and recover from a variety of wounds and conditions. Often times I am most certain that an ailment will take the life of one of my girls and as it turns out they  make an amazing recovery.

So what is bumble foot exactly? Basically, it is caused by a very small puncture wound on the chicken’s foot. As the chickens body attempts to heal itself, a “corn” is formed in the soft tissue of the foot creating an very painful condition called bumble foot. Although it is not inherently common in backyard flocks, it does happen from time to time.

My girls came down with the condition by injuring their feet on tree branches that fell into their outdoor run area after several severe spring storms ripped through our area. Some of the branches were sharp and a few of the girls obtained small wounds on their feet before I could get everything cleaned up. Even something as simple as digging in mulch can cause a splinter to get infected and cause bumble foot in a chicken. So there are a variety of things that can cause bumble foot to grow in the soft tissue of even pampered backyard divas.

Although the condition sounds severe, it is actually rather simple to treat. All it takes is some time and attention. There are many ways to treat the infection. Some chicken owners will actually cut the infection out of the foot. I would only do this is only in extreme conditions. Although this would remove the infection from the bird very quickly I would hate to cause this much pain to one of my girls. This procedure honestly is much better handled by a vet who has the proper pain management to preform this method of addressing bumble foot. I take a bit more gentle approach, working with the chicken’s body to draw out the infection with as little pain as possible. I call it the salve method. I will detail below with pictures how to treat the infection using salve.

First you will need to catch the patient that needs the bumble foot infection addressed. It is best to wrap the patient in a towel. This will keep the bird calm and make it easier for your assistant to hold. That is right, I forgot to mention that you will need a helper for this little project. My helper today is my Mom, Mary. She loves my girls and enjoyed holding and talking to our patient throughout the entire procedure.

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Our patient today is Miss Pea. She is one of the last remaining girls that is still recovering from a bumble foot infection. Her infection is slow to heal mainly because she is the largest of all my hens. She puts a lot of weight on her feet which does tend to make the healing process slower. Nonetheless, she takes her pedi days in stride.

Ok, now that you have your patient wrapped in a towel, give the patient to you assistant and let them hold the bird for you. This will make it easier for you to use both your hands to work on the bumble foot infection.

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One very important note here: Make sure that you wear gloves!!! Bumble foot is a bacterial infection. Many bacterium live in the ground, it is possible that some bumble foot infection can actually contain the staph bacteria making them staph infections. So to protect yourself make sure that you wear a good pair of quality medial exam gloves. Also see that your assistant wears that same quality medical exam gloves.

Ok, Now for the procedure, make sure that you have a stocked medical kit. You will need: Gloves, Peroxide, rubbing Alcohol, cotton balls, scissors, rolled gauze, antibacterial cream such as triple antibiotic cream, salve, and vet wrap. Here are my supplies laid out and ready to use.

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Ok, Now that you have your patient and your assistant holding your patient it’s time to begin. Isolate the foot that has the infection and secure the other foot under the towel. A chicken will have the natural reaction to kick with the other foot, so that foot need to be secured. You don’t want the claws from the other foot to put holes in your gloves.

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Take a cotton ball, dip it into some alcohol or peroxide and wipe the foot clean. Removing all debris and disinfecting the foot pad. Chickens feet can be ver dirty. Sometimes it helps to soak the foot in a tub of warm epsom salt water to further clean the feet and allow the skin to soften.

After you have cleaned the foot, inspect the wound. This is Miss Pea’s foot, she has a pretty large bumble foot infection. As you can see they are usually circular in nature and can be very deep. After I cleaned her foot I put a dab of Salve on her foot. Just enough to cover the wound, you don’t need to smear the whole foot in Salve.

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Now is a good time to talk about Salve. I swear by this product. The purpose of Salve is to soften the skin allowing the body to expel the infection. It is often used for horses to pull pebbles and other objects out of their hoves. It is non-toxic and painless for the bird. It is a wonderful product. I would not keep chickens without this in my chicken first aid kit. It is found at Tractor Supply and costs about $20 a tub. It will last you literally for ever. It is black, smells awful, looks like tar but will works miracles on bumble foot infection. I also use it on my kids when they get splinters or other cut wounds.

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Once you put the Salve on the patients cleaned and disinfected foot, place same gauze on top of it. The gauze will keep the salve next to the skin and offer some protection for the wound.

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Now that you have the wound Salved and gauze on the top it is time to wrap the foot. this will keep the gauze in place and prevent dirt and other things from contaminating the wound causing more infection to grow.

A chickens foot is a bit of a challenge to wrap, but once you get the hang of it its rather easy. First you will need to cut 2-3 strips of vet wrap about 10-12 inches long. Start several inches up the bird legs and wrap the vet wrap around her leg. Then, as you reach the toes just weave the vet wrap in-between the toes making sure to cover the bottom of the foot completely. A note here, DO NOT make the vet wrap too tight. You are not trying to provide compression. You are simply holding the gauze in place and preventing dirt from infecting the wound further. Wrapping too tight will cut off circulation to the patient’s foot causing severe leg problems. Keep the wrap rather loose, vet wrap will stick to itself so there is no need to wrap the foot too tight. I would rather that you question whether it is too loose than too tight.

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Once you have the patients foot wrapped. They are good to go, a free bird. You can allow your patient to roam with the rest of the flock. All I caution about is do not let their foot get wet. So if you are expecting rain in the forecast, make sure that they do not step in mud or puddles. Secure your patient to the pen for the day if the weather is going to be bad. If the foot does gets wet it could cause further infection and delay recovery. However, if their foot gets wet just remove the bandage, disinfect, apply more salve and rewrap. Its not a big deal, it happened to me several times when we would get a freak shower. So I just rewrapped her and called it a day.

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Once they have their foot fashions on, return the patient to the flock and check the wound in a few days. I go no longer than a week, every 2-3 days is ideal. The Salve will work to pull the infection from the body bring with it puss and the corn. Simply remove the gauze, disinfect the foot with either alcohol or peroxide apply more salve, and wrap.

The Salve method takes a while to completely clear the infection. A bad bumble foot infection can take several months to completely clear up. This is the disadvantage of using the Salve vs cutting the infection out. However the Salve is painless and very effective. The surgical method requires an individual to have a tough stomach when it comes to blood and puss. Not only is it bloody but it is very painful unless numbing medication is properly administered. This procedure is best left to a vet. Additionally, when you cut into a bird you risk the very real possibility of severe life threatning infection. This is because if the bacteria that is in the foot gets into the blood stream it could be life threatening for the bird. I would much rather use a method that takes a bit longer but is painless, and reduces the infection rather than possibly making it worse. The Salve will work, it is absolutely amazing, will save you hundreds on vet bills, and be painless for the patient.

bumble foot, although sounding daunting is a very simple condition to treat. Using the right methods, it is painless for the bird and returns their quality of life once fully recovered.

I hope that this post has helped anyone who is struggling with or just would like to know how to address bumble foot in backyard chickens.

As always ,the girls and I thank you for stopping by. Remember to keep on crowing and we will see you next time.

~The Kuntry Klucker Crew~

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