Safely handle backyard chickens
When school is out and the weather turns warmer, people become more interested in
raising backyard chickens. Since human interactions with poultry can raise the risk of
bacterial infections, experts are urging new and experienced backyard flock enthusiasts
to remember safe handling principles.
“We’re seeing an even higher interest in raising backyard flocks this year,” said Jacquie
Jacob of the University of Kentucky. “It may be because many people are staying home
more during the COVID-19 pandemic and expanding their interests. Since you can
order chicks through the mail, it can be a popular stay-home adventure. Every year, we
seem to see an uptick in salmonella outbreaks linked to backyard flocks, so it’s a good
time to emphasize safe management practices.”
Salmonella cases involving backyard poultry tend to have a few things in common
including: brooding and raising poultry in the house, letting birds run loose and deposit
droppings everywhere, not washing hands after handling eggs and birds, washing dirty
eggs in kitchen sinks and not disinfecting the sink afterward, and allowing birds to have
close contact with human mouths and noses.
“A large number of cases have involved children under age 5,” Jacob said. “It’s
especially important for families with backyard flocks to teach their children safe
handling practices and good hygiene.”
It is important to remember that the intestinal tracts of all mammals and birds have
various types of bacteria as part of their natural intestinal microflora, and many
situations naturally expose people to those bacteria. Some types of bacteria cause
disease, so hygiene is always important. Vigorously washing hands with soap and
warm, running water is vital. Jacob said to remember to wash the backs of hands,
between fingers and under fingernails and then rinse well and thoroughly dry. If there is
no access to running water, anti-bacterial hand sanitizers or wipes are acceptable.
“I know it’s hard to tell children not to nuzzle or kiss animals, chicks and ducklings, but it
is necessary to avoid infection,” Jacob said. “Always remind children not to touch their
face after handling birds and don’t allow them to eat or drink before thoroughly washing
their hands. ”
If handled safely, backyard flocks can provide hours of distraction and entertainment as
well as meat and eggs for families this summer.

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