Human Salmonella Infections from Live Poultry in Backyard Flocks

Salmonella infections don’t just come from eating contaminated food—they also can come from contact with animals and animal environments. Every year, Salmonella infections occur in people who have contact with certain types of animals, such as live poultry in backyard flocks.

The trend of raising backyard poultry is growing because of consumer interest in knowing where one’s food comes from. Many people with backyard poultry simply buy one or two birds to keep in their backyard for fresh eggs. Chickens, ducks, geese, turkey, and other live poultry can carry Salmonella germs in their guts. Live poultry can have Salmonella germs in their droppings and on their feathers, feet, and beaks, even when they appear healthy and clean. These germs can spread to the environment where poultry live and roam, including their coops, cages, hay, soil, and feed and water dishes. People can get sick from contact with anything in the bird’s environment, even if they don’t touch the bird directly. Backyard poultry flocks are an increasing and important cause of Salmonella infections in people in the United States.

Salmonella germs can cause a diarrheal illness in people that can be mild, severe, or even life threatening, depending on the person infected. Children younger than 5, adults over age 65, and people with weakened immune systems, such as people with cancer or HIV, are more likely than others to develop severe illness. Young children are especially at risk for salmonellosis because their immune systems are still developing, and they are more likely to put their fingers and other items in their mouths.

  • Live poultry should be kept outdoors at all times. Do not allow poultry to roam or live in your home, especially in areas where food is prepared or served. Salmonella germs can spread to surfaces in the home and people can get sick from contact with these surfaces.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry, their eggs, or anything in the area where they live and roam. Adults should supervise handwashing for young children. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available.
  • Do not snuggle, kiss, or hold live poultry close to your face. Do not eat or drink around live poultry or in the areas where they are kept.
  • Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm. Egg dishes should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) or hotter.
  • Clean any equipment or materials used to care for live poultry outside the house, such as cages or feed or water containers. Dedicate a pair of shoes to wear while taking care of poultry and keep those shoes outside of the house.
  • Children under age five, adults over age 65, and people with weakened immune systems should not touch or handle live poultry. They should also avoid the areas outside where poultry roam and live.
Infographic: Since the 1990's, 65 Salmonella outbreaks have been linked to live poultry. Wash your hands after handling live poultry.

Since the 1990's, 65 Salmonella outbreaks have been linked to live poultry. Wash your hands after handling live poultry.

chick and duckling

Chick and duckling

chickens

Several chickens in a chicken coop

illustration of a chicken laying on eggs, alongside an illustration of hands holding a bar of soap with bubbles.

Handwashing helps! Learn how to protect yourself from germs.

Illustration of a girl holding a baby chick, and bringing it close to her face

Don't snuggle or kiss your birds!

Illustrations of chickens and ducks, with an illustration of hands washing with bubbles under a faucet,

ALWAYS wash your hands after handling live poultry.

Siempre Lávese las manos después de manipular aves vivas

Siempre lavese las manos despues de manipular aves vivas

Illustration of a woman wearing boots and raking an area with bird feces, with an inset image of her boots on the doorstep outside of her home.

Safely scoop the poop!

A chicken coop, with the word

Keep poultry in a chicken coop and out of your home

Contact Information

CDC Media Relations
(404) 639-3286
media@cdc.gov

Spokespersons

Biography

Megin Nichols

“We encourage people to create a safe space where poultry can live and roam outside the home.”

“Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.”

“CDC doesn’t recommend snuggling or kissing the birds or touching them to your mouth, because that’s one way we know people become infected with Salmonella.”

Megin Nichols, DVM, MPH, DACVPMEnteric Zoonoses Activity Lead, ORPB, NCEZID

Page last reviewed: May 8, 2018