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Tips Offered for Healthier Backyard Chicken Coops

Backyard chicken flocks are becoming more popular with the rise of organic foods. (freestocks.org)
Backyard chicken flocks are becoming more popular with the rise of organic foods. (freestocks.org)
August 28, 2017

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Nearly 1,000 people across the country have become ill this year from salmonella connected to backyard flocks of chickens, ducks and geese.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating ten separate poultry-related salmonella outbreaks that have affected people across the country - including 39 cases in Kentucky, the seventh highest total among the states.

CDC Public Health Veterinarian, Dr. Megin Nichols, said the agency isn't discouraging backyard agriculture or the benefits of learning to interact with animals, but preventing salmonella is a critical precaution.

"And there's some simple things you can do to prevent it, which are really important,” Nichols said. "So, whether you have poultry for food, eggs or as a pet, you have to be sure to wash your hands."

Other tips for people raising chickens, ducks or geese include making sure you change your shoes and clothes after cleaning coops, and for those who keep them as pets, Nichols said birds shouldn't come into contact with people's faces.

As the trend toward organic food grows, Nichols said many people buy their own chickens because they believe they're less likely to have salmonella and other germs. But, she noted, many of the birds for sale at the local feed store actually come from factory farms.

"Just like the poultry in the grocery store, all live poultry can carry salmonella,” she said. "It's in their guts and it doesn't cause the birds to become sick. You can't tell that a bird is carrying salmonella or other germs just by looking at it."

Signs of a salmonella infection in humans include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. Many who contract salmonella just feel a little sick, but it can be a deadly illness for small children, older people and those with weakened immune systems.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY