Salmonella Outbreaks Linked to Backyard Poultry | CDC

In This Article:

  • What you Need to Know if you’re Consuming Fresh Farm Eggs.
  • Salmonella Illness Fast Facts, August 2022
  • What You Need to Know as a Backyard Chicken Keeper

Whether you are raising backyard chickens or consuming fresh eggs from a local chicken keeper, there are a few precautions to be aware of. Salmonella is real, and a serious health threat that exists everywhere… even from local backyard chicken keepers.

Salmonella Illness Facts, August 2022

  • Illnesses: 884
  • Hospitalizations: 158
  • Deaths: 2
  • States: 48 and the District of Columbia
  • Investigation status: Active

What You Need to Know as a Consumer of Backyard Farm Fresh Eggs

  • Backyard poultry, such as chickens and ducks, can carry Salmonella germs even if they look healthy and clean. These germs can easily spread to anything in the areas where the poultry live and roam.
  • You can get sick from touching backyard poultry or anything in their environment, including eggs.
  • Your eggs should never be in a used egg carton. If you’re unsure if your supplier uses new cartons, transfer the eggs into a clean wire basket. It’s a good practice to transfer eggs to your own basket before they reach your kitchen.
  • Discard dirty or irregular eggs. Dirty eggs mean the nest box is dirty, and the eggs may have been exposed to bacteria.
  • Don’t wash eggs; eggs have what is called the *bloom that protects the egg from bacteria. Washing removes the bloom, allowing bacteria to easily enter the egg.
  • Ask to see the area where the hens that supply your eggs are kept. It should be dry and not foul-smelling. The hens should look happy and healthy.
  • Never crack open the egg on the same pan you’re cooking in.
  • Wash your hands anytime you handle eggs, especially when cooking.

Those at Highest Risk of Severe Illness from Salmonella

  • Young children, especially under 5 years old.
  • Adults 65 and over, or someone with a compromised or weakened immune system.
Fancy Egg Baskets are available on Amazon, but the one shown above is from the Dollar Store!

What You Need to Know as a Backyard Chicken Keeper

  • Eggs from a backyard chicken keeper should be collected daily. Cracked, dirty, or eggs that aren’t in the nest box should be discarded. Fresh eggs are better left unwashed as not to disturb the bloom, which protects the eggs from bacteria.
  • It is good practice to clean nest boxes weekly and have at least one nest box for every three hens.
  • Don’t re-use egg cartons; or sell eggs in used cartons. Use a wire basket when collecting eggs. Ask your customers to bring their own basket or container.
  • Transfer eggs to a clean wire basket or new carton before storing them in your refrigerator.
  • Wash hands immediately after handling eggs.
  • There should be a clean space between your living quarters and the coop. Shoes, gloves, or anything you wear to work in the coop should be left in a designated area away from your living quarters. Rakes, shovels, and all cleaning supplies that are used in the coop should STAY IN THE COOP or a designated area nearby.
  • If your birds are free-roaming, they should have an area completely separate from the family home. This includes a no chicken zone where children or pets are likely to play.
  • Don’t let children younger than 5 years touch chicks, or other backyard poultry. Young children are more likely to get sick from Salmonella.

More information | CDC | Salmonella and Backyard Poultry
Centers of Disease Control & Prevention

* What is the Bloom? The “bloom” of an egg in an invisible coating that the hen’s body will “lay” on top of the shell of the egg. The bloom is also known as the cuticle of the eggs. It protects the egg from bacteria entering the egg.

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Chickens in the House is Nothing to Brag About

Chickens in the house? Really? This is not a practice I would boast about to the world, but yet I see pictures every single day online. Chickens wandering around kitchens, sitting on the back of couches, and looking in the back doors and windows of homes. The list goes on and on.

Chickens are not house pets, and though SO MANY people allow their mature chickens in the house, I consider this practice a potential health risk, and irresponsible to say the least.

The rule of thumb is to keep a clean area between chickens and your living space.  That means chickens don’t belong in the yard, on the patio, where children play, or anywhere that family traffic is common. Chickens should have their own area outside. They are NOT companion animals like dogs and cats, and shouldn’t be allowed the same indoor perks.

Why is This so Important?

It’s common for chickens to carry Salmonella, which is a type of germ that naturally lives in the intestines and is shed in their feces. Live poultry may have Salmonella germs on their bodies (including feathers, feet, and beaks) even when they appear healthy and clean. The germs can also get on coops, hay, plants, and soil in the area where the birds live and roam. Additionally, the germs can be found on the hands, shoes, and clothing of those who handle the birds or work or play where they live and roam.

Each spring, children become infected with Salmonella, but it’s important to remember that illness can occur from chicks or adult birds at any time of the year. Children are exposed to Salmonella by holding, cuddling, or kissing the birds and by touching things where the bird lives, such as cages or feed and water bowls. Young children are especially at risk for illness because their immune systems are still developing and because they are more likely than others to put their fingers or other items into their mouths.

How Common is Salmonella?

CDC estimates that approximately 1.2 million illnesses and approximately 450 deaths occur from Salmonella annually in the United States alone.

And Furthermore…  Shame on Manufacturers

It doesn’t help that chicken diapers and clothes are being marketed. These items are made simply because people will buy them. Nothing of the sort makes it safe to allow chickens indoors… nothing.

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Free Roam or a Chicken Coop?

Making the decision to free roam your chickens has benefits for you and your flock, but there are also risks to consider.

Two Hens

Wondering how big a chore it would be to have a few chickens? Maybe you already have a backyard flock and find them a bit overwhelming to care for. Truth is, I think we’re all a little guilty of fussing over our birds more than we need to. We worry about predators and try to keep them safe by locking them up in a coop, then, watch them unhappily pace their walls of confinement.

Chickens that are allowed to free roam will be busy looking for bugs and scratching around in the dirt. They will require much less upkeep, lower your feed bill, and have much cleaner coop. In my opinion, coops are for laying eggs and a night time safe haven. I lock up my flock at night and do the best I can to protect them from predators. At dawn, I let them out and hope for the best. That may be a little risky, but lets face it, so is driving in your car.

If you don’t have the free roaming option, then a coop is going to require some work on your part. Even just a couple hens are dirty, and after just a few days the coop will need to be cleaned. Coops can be hot in the summer and freezing cold in winter. Cleaning the coop, feeding, watering, and picking eggs probably isn’t going to make your list of favorite things to do in inclement weather.

Chickens are actually pretty smart, they managed to find food, shelter, and are capable of hiding from danger. They huddle together to stay warm in the winter, and are smart enough to dig holes in the dirt to stay cool during the summer months.
I provide a safe place for my flock at night, and enjoy watching my chickens enjoy their freedom during the day.

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