An increasing number of people around the country are choosing to keep live poultry, such as chickens or ducks. Along with the benefits of backyard chickens and other poultry, it is important to consider the risk of illness, especially for children, which can result from handling live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. In recent years, several human Salmonella outbreaks associated with live poultry contact have been reported to the CDC.
It’s common for chickens, ducks, and other poultry to carry Salmonella, which is a type of germ that naturally lives in the intestines of many animals and is shed in their droppings or feces. Live poultry may have Salmonella germs in their droppings and on their bodies (including feathers, feet, and beaks) even when they appear healthy and clean. The germs can also get on cages, 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.
Salmonella can make people sick with diarrhea and fever, often with vomiting and abdominal cramps. Sometimes, people can become so sick from a Salmonella infection that they have to go to the hospital. Infants, elderly persons, and those with weakened immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness. You can learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment of Salmonella infection by visiting the CDC’s Salmonella web site.
How do I reduce the risk of Salmonella infection from live poultry?
- Do not let children younger than 5 years of age handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry without supervision.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Avoid touching your mouth before washing your hands. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available.
- Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
- Wash hands after removing soiled clothes and shoes.
- Do not eat or drink in the area where the birds live or roam.
- Do not let live poultry inside the house or in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens, pantries, or outdoor patios.
- If you have free-roaming live poultry, assume that where they live and roam is contaminated.
- Clean equipment and materials associated with raising or caring for live poultry, such as cages, feed containers, and water containers, outside the house, not inside.
For more information, visit CDC’s Risk of Human Salmonella Infections from Live Baby Poultry feature and the Healthy Pets Healthy People web site.