Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

Advice to Backyard Flock Owners (Final Update)

Four Multistate Outbreaks of Human Salmonella Infections Linked to Live Poultry in Backyard Flocks


These investigations are over. However, live poultry, including those kept in backyard flocks, remain an important cause of human Salmonella infections in the United States. More information about Salmonella from live poultry and the steps people can take to reduce their risk of infection is available.

Advice to Backyard Flock Owners

Contact with live poultry and their environment can make people sick with Salmonella infections. Live poultry can be carrying Salmonella bacteria but appear healthy and clean and show no signs of illness. Follow these simple tips for protecting yourself and others while enjoying backyard poultry:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer until you are able to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Do not let live poultry inside the house, in bathrooms, or especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens, or outdoor patios.
  • Children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65, and people with weakened immune systems should not handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry. People in these groups are more likely to have a severe illness from Salmonella infection.
  • Do not snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your mouth, or eat or drink around live poultry.
  • Stay outdoors when cleaning any equipment or materials used to raise or care for live poultry, such as cages or feed or water containers.
  • These recommendations are important and apply to all live poultry regardless of the age of the birds or where they were purchased.

Advice to Mail-order Hatcheries

  • Mail-order hatcheries should provide health-related information to owners and potential purchasers of these birds before they buy any birds (see example below). This should include information about the risk of acquiring a Salmonella infection from contact with live poultry.
  • Mail-order hatcheries should put interventions in place to help prevent contamination and infection of poultry with Salmonella:
  • Mail-order hatcheries should participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Poultry Improvement Plan (USDA-NPIP) US voluntary Salmonella Monitoring Program [PDF - 17 pages], in which voluntary participation by mail-order hatcheries will certify their flocks are monitored for Salmonella bacteria that may cause illness in humans. The intent of this program is to reduce the incidence of Salmonella in day-old poultry in the hatchery and give the poultry industry a better opportunity to reduce the incidence of Salmonella in their products.

Advice to Feed Stores that Sell or Display Live Poultry

  • Agricultural feed stores should take steps to prevent human Salmonella infections from contact with live poultry.
    • Source the birds they sell from suppliers that have adopted USDA’s best management practices to mitigate Salmonella contamination [PDF - 25 pages].
    • Source the birds they sell from hatcheries which voluntarily participate in the USDA-NPIP US voluntary Salmonella Monitoring Program [PDF - 17 pages].
    • Provide health information to owners and potential purchasers of these birds before purchase (see example below). This should include information about the risk of acquiring a Salmonella infection from contact with live poultry.
    • Place health information in clear view where birds are displayed.
    • Offer hand washing stations or hand sanitizer next to poultry display areas and tell customers to wash hands right after leaving these areas.
    • Display poultry out of reach of customers, especially chil­dren, so customers can not easily touch birds.
    • Clean the areas where birds are displayed between shipments of new birds.
  • More information on displaying animals in public settings can be found in the 2013 Compendium of Measures to Prevent Diseases Associated with Animals in Public Settings.
Top