Raising backyard chickens? Beware of salmonella

By • Published: August 8th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Many Americans are turning away from grocery stores to find eggs for their families.

Some are raising chickens in their own yards and harvesting the eggs. Backyard chicken-raising occurs in urban, suburban and rural settings, and it’s popular for several reasons.

Some people object to large poultry companies’ treatment of birds. They say these organizations’ practices lead to eggs and other chicken products that are unhealthful or nutritionally deficient. Giving the birds antibiotics or hormones, limiting their roaming and feeding, crowding them into tight quarters and pasteurizing their eggs all are practices that some people find objectionable.

But backyard chicken rearing poses its own risks. But following basic guidelines can make this a more healthful and valuable endeavor.

First, check local laws to see if chickens are permitted in your neighborhood. If the birds are allowed in your area, then you should know about salmonella, a bacterium that often resides in poultry birds’ digestive systems. It doesn’t sicken them, so you can’t spot a salmonella-carrying bird by looking at it. The bacteria comes out in their waste and can spread to anything — or anyone — that touches it.

Chicken waste, and any germs it’s carrying, often gets onto the animals’ beaks, feet, feathers and skin. Even clean-looking birds likely have some on them. The same goes for their surroundings.

To stay safe, regularly and thoroughly wash the chickens’ structures and equipment, and do so outside. Anyone who touches the birds, their habitat or their equipment must remove potentially contaminated clothes and shoes, then wash their hands thoroughly. Unpasteurized eggs can transmit diseases, too, so don’t consume raw ones.

Follow these tips to stay salmonella-free, and get ready to harvest some eggs. No grocery store necessary.