I was at our local farm supply store the other day and saw a sign indicating they were out of chicken coops and trying to find more from different sources. I wonder if there’s a run on backyard chickens as people spend more time at home.

There are some good aspects of that.

  • Then…there’s Salmonella.

I’m not anti-backyard chicken. (If I wasn’t convinced they’d be coyote-food, and that Heather would kick me out of the house, I’d consider getting some).

I’m anti-diarrhea and anti-preventable death. It’s clear that backyard chickens pose some risk to people. How much of that is non-preventable vs how much is preventable with basic common sense and hygiene is a big question (and an area we’re working on…but which has been stalled by COVID-19).

Anyway, CDC’s latest Investigation Notice about Outbreaks of Salmonella Infections Linked to Backyard Poultry highlights the concerns and need for improvement education and practices.

The quicky version of the report

  • Since their May 2020 update, another 368 infections have been diagnosed. That brings the total diagnosed to 465 (meaning there were probably many thousand people truly infected).
  • 36% of people they had good data on were hospitalized.
  • One person died.
  • As is common, young kids bear a disproportionate brunt of disease. 31% of sick people were kids <5 years of age. That’s probably a reflect of their close contact with the birds (e.g. kissing them), inadequate supervision and inadequately hygiene (hand washing in particular).
  • Chickens came from a range of sources, such as farm stores, hatcheries and websites.

Risk reduction isn’t rocket science. It’s some basic management and hygiene practices (and some common sense…..no, putting a diaper on a your chicken does not make letting it run around your kitchen a safe proposition, despite the availability of chicken diapers online).

  • Keep backyard poultry in the backyard….don’t let them roam the house.
  • Wash your hands after contact with them.
  • Look at where runoff can carry bacteria from manure in the pens.
  • Don’t kiss them
  • Wash your hands.
  • Supervise kids
  • Wash your hands
  • Handle eggs like commercially sourced eggs. Your home raised, all natural, organic, antibiotic free egg is as likely (or maybe more likely) to have something nasty on it than the egg you buy.

Enjoy your chickens, but…..wash your hands.