Live Poultry Frequently Asked Questions
Eight Multistate Outbreaks of Human Salmonella Infections Linked to Live Poultry in Backyard Flocks (Final Update)
Posted October 6, 2016 2:45PM ET
These outbreak investigations are over. However, people can still get a Salmonella infection from live poultry, including those in backyard flocks. Read more information about Salmonella from live poultry and how people can reduce the chance they or their children will get an infection.
What do we do if our child’s preschool is letting chickens free-roam all over the outside play area of the school?
Live poultry should not be kept in facilities with children younger than 5 years, such as child care centers or schools. If this is not possible, the area where the chickens roam should be considered contaminated, and the children should not be allowed to play in these areas. The chicken house or area should be cleaned frequently. Older children should be supervised if they are interacting with chickens. Their hands should be washed (under adult supervision) immediately after handling the birds. In some states certain animals, including live poultry, are prohibited in child care facilities [PDF – 662KB] as a result of the health risk.
Can animals such as cats and dogs become sick with Salmonella?
Yes, cats and dogs can get Salmonella and become ill. They may also carry and transmit the germ without showing signs of illness. Other animals, such as reptiles, amphibians, and poultry may also carry and transmit Salmonella without showing signs of illness. For more information you can visit CDC’s website about Salmonella here.
Who is most likely to get a severe illness from Salmonella?
Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment. However, in some people, the illness can be more severe. Severe illness is more likely to affect the elderly, infants, and those with weakened immune systems.
I have a backyard garden that my chickens love to peck around in. Does thoroughly washing the produce reduce the risk of Salmonella, or should I keep the chickens out of the garden?
Yes, thoroughly washing produce is always a good idea and can help reduce (although not eliminate) the risk of Salmonella. There is risk of contamination of produce with germs if fresh chicken manure is put directly on food gardens. Keeping chickens out of the garden helps reduce the risk of Salmonella, as well as using chicken manure that has gone through the complete composting process. The University of Idaho offers more information regarding composting of chicken manure [PDF 1.24MB].
My family has kept chickens for many years and there have never been any health problems. Why?
If your family has properly handled chickens and practiced hand washing, they greatly reduced their risk of illness. Many people experience diarrheal illness and might not attribute it to a known cause or might not be diagnosed with Salmonella infection by a healthcare provider. Thus the true number of people who become ill after contact with live poultry is likely underestimated. Additionally, those who often do become ill are the elderly, infants, and those with weakened immune systems. Some healthy adults might experience very mild illness.
My neighbor has small children and she has been keeping a chicken in her house. How can I share information with her?
You can print our safe handling instructions for live poultry [PDF 721KB] and share it with your neighbor as a conversation starter.
Is it OK to wash my chicken water dish in my kitchen sink? There is some bedding in it but no poop. Is it a health risk?
Items such as food and water bowls from chicken coops should not be washed or cleaned where human food is prepared or served, because there is a risk of cross-contamination of these areas with germs such as Salmonella.
We bought chicks that have Salmonella and my son became sick and tested positive. I really don’t want to cull the flock. Can I treat them with antibiotics?
Administering antibiotics to live poultry is not recommended to ‘treat’ Salmonella. In live poultry, Salmonella is a part of the intestinal flora and often does not make them sick. Additionally, giving antibiotics when not medically necessary can result in antibiotic resistance. Before bringing home live poultry it is important to consider if they are right for your family and check your local ordinances regarding ownership of poultry. If you purchased live poultry and are unable to keep them, talk with the store or hatchery where the poultry were purchased to see about returning or rehoming them. You can also speak with your local agriculture extension agent or poultry veterinarian.
Where can I get more information on backyard poultry and Salmonella?
More information about Salmonella and steps people can take to reduce their risk of infection with Salmonella in general can be found on the CDC Salmonella website. Also, talk to your veterinarian about your poultry’s health. Your veterinarian can play in key role in helping you and your poultry stay healthy. Another resource is your county extension agent..
- Page last reviewed: June 2, 2016
- Page last updated: October 6, 2016
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