Baby Chicks and Salmonella: Tyler’s Story
Tyler and his parents, Erika and Cody, live in the small community of Newfane, N.Y., about an hour north of Buffalo. They love the outdoors, especially when they can play with their three dogs, or Tyler can play ice hockey or street hockey. Their family also enjoys fresh eggs from the chickens in their backyard coop.
In 2016, the family bought new baby chicks and put them in the basement under a heat lamp until they were old enough to join the older chickens in the backyard coop. During this time, Tyler, who was in kindergarten, enjoyed visiting them.
“Tyler loved to go down to the basement and would frequently ask to hold the baby chickens,” said Erika. “They were small enough to fit in his hands. He wanted to take pictures of the baby chickens to bring in to ‘show and tell’ at school.”
“We began to feel as though we would never get our little boy back, that the Tyler we knew would never be the same.”
Tyler’s mom, Erika
Tyler starts having unexplained symptoms
In late February, Tyler began complaining of stomachaches. He felt like something was caught in his throat. He visited the school nurse often, but she couldn’t figure out what was making him feel sick. Erika took Tyler to the doctor, but his symptoms didn’t improve even after trying several medications.
“We didn’t know if this was just the typical kindergarten jitters or if something was truly wrong that we were missing,” said Erika.
After 6 to 8 weeks, Erika noticed blood in Tyler’s poop, which was scary for both of them. More trips to the doctor resulted in more testing but few answers. He began to lose weight and miss school.
“He was definitely not himself,” Erika said. “He was missing out on friends’ birthday parties. He didn’t want to do his homework. It was the first year he wasn’t able to see the Easter bunny.”
Long illness leads to frustration and fear
Tyler, who is now 9 years old, said it was scary being sick, and he didn’t like missing school and time with his friends. During this time, Tyler’s parents were frustrated and exhausted.
“Tyler’s illness greatly impacted our entire family,” Erika said. “We began to feel as though we would never get our little boy back, that the Tyler we knew would never be the same.”
Finally, Tyler was diagnosed with a Salmonella infection that was eventually traced back to the baby chicks, and he was able to get the right treatment. Tyler made a full recovery and is back to the fun-loving boy his family had missed.
“Tyler is back to our little social butterfly that we knew a few months prior to his illness,” Erika said. “He is back to enjoying his social life, his hobbies, as well as loving school.”
Erika wants other moms to know the risks of backyard chickens and how to protect their families from getting sick.
Staying safe around backyard chickens
The family has made some changes in how they handle their chickens. They no longer keep baby chickens in their house, including the basement, while waiting for them to get older. They all stay in a backyard coop. Tyler does not touch or visit the chickens as often.
“When he does feed or hold the chickens, we make sure he appropriately washes his hands,” Erika said.
Based on her experience, Erika wants other moms to know the risks of backyard chickens and how to protect their families from getting sick. Handwashing and keeping the birds outside, even the baby ones, are great steps to preventing illness.
“I still like having chickens,” Tyler said. “Now I wash my hands so I don’t get sick. I don’t want any other kids to get sick like I did.”
Read stories from people who got sick with infections that came from food or animal contact.