In recent years, the number of Salmonella cases linked to backyard chickens has been steadily increasing. While owning a backyard flock can be a rewarding experience, owners should be aware of safe handling practices to decrease Salmonella exposure.
Tips for handling chicks and chickens
- Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after touching live chicks or chickens. If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer. Young children should be supervised by an adult.
- Don’t kiss or snuggle with your chickens. Exposing them to your face and mouth can expose you to Salmonella.
- Don’t let chickens in your house, especially in areas where food or drinks are stored, served or prepared. Also, try to keep them away from dining areas and gardens outside, such as a patio or deck.
- Don’t let children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65 or people with weakened immune systems from conditions such as cancer treatment, HIV/AIDS or organ transplants, handle or touch any live poultry.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends buying live poultry from hatcheries that participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Poultry Improvement Plan.
Tips for visiting the coop
- Keeping your flock in an enclosed area will reduce the risk of Salmonella exposure while protecting it from predators and making egg collection easier.
- Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after touching anything in an area where chickens live and roam.
- Dedicate a pair of shoes specifically for taking care of the chickens and store them outside to reduce the risk of tracking Salmonella and other diseases spread in droppings out of the chickens’ living area.
- Never eat or drink in an area where chickens live or roam.
- Clean any equipment or materials — cages, feed and water containers — used to raise or care for chickens outside. Do not bring them in your house.
- Maintaining a clean coop, including floor, nests and perches, on a regular basis will keep eggs clean and help reduce contamination. Drop pans should be cleaned daily and pens with pine shaving should be cleaned monthly to reduce contamination. Your flock’s shed should be thoroughly cleaned yearly with an approved disinfectant from your feed store.
- Control rodents to reduce Salmonella in the birds’ environment. Rodents often harbor salmonella and can infect birds by contaminating their food.
Tips for collecting and consuming eggs
- Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water before and after handling eggs from backyard chickens.
- Collect eggs frequently. Eggs that spend more time in the nest can become dirty or damaged.
- Throw out any cracked eggs.
- Clean dirty eggs by using a fine sandpaper, a brush or clothe. Don’t wash eggs as colder water can pull bacteria into the egg.
- Refrigerate eggs at a temperature of 35 to 40 F as soon as possible.
- Date the storage carton and use up older eggs first.
- Cook all eggs completely before consuming. Never eat raw or undercooked eggs.
- Cook foods that contain eggs to an internal temperature of 160 F.
- Don’t keep cooked or raw eggs at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Understand all of the local regulations regarding the sale of eggs. If you sell eggs, you need to follow local licensing requirements.
Tips for cooking and eating chicken
- Thoroughly wash hands and utensils with soap and water before and after coming into contact with uncooked poultry.
- Keep raw poultry separated from other foods.
- Always cook poultry to an internal temperature of 165 F before eating.