They’re cute, but Easter chicks, ducklings, and even adult chickens can carry Salmonella

Chicks and ducklings in local farm supply stores are a sure sign of spring. It’s time to establish or replenish backyard flocks. It’s also just before Easter, when some people may be thinking about giving baby birds to children as gifts.

This cute little chick could harbor Salmonella bacteria. Make sure you wash your hands after touching it.
This cute little chick could harbor Salmonella bacteria. Make sure you wash your hands after touching it.

But it’s important to be aware that all poultry can transmit potentially harmful bacteria to people who touch them. Public health and agriculture officials encourage people to be aware of the risks of Salmonella infection before purchasing poultry, particularly for the very young, the old, and those with compromised immune systems.

“Owning chicks and ducklings can be fun, but we want to discourage impulse buying of these animals for Easter,” said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, state public health veterinarian. “They grow into adults fairly quickly, and a long-term commitment to raising them needs to be in place. Those who raise backyard poultry should be knowledgeable about animal care and disease risks before venturing into that activity. Chickens and ducks can transfer potentially harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella, to anyone who handles them if precautions aren’t taken.” 

Chicks, ducklings, and all poultry naturally carry Salmonella bacteria in their droppings and on their feathers, feet, and beaks, even when they seem to be healthy and clean. Salmonella bacteria usually don’t make the birds sick, but in people it can cause diarrhea ranging from mild to severe or even life threatening. Symptoms also can include vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps. The illness can last for 4-7 days.

Children younger than 5, seniors, and those with weakened immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness from Salmonella infection and may want to avoid handling live poultry altogether.

These simple steps will help protect yourself and others from getting sick:

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
  • Frequently clean all contaminated surfaces. This includes any equipment or materials used for raising or caring for live poultry outside the house, such as cages, food and water bowls, and any items that might be taken into the home.
  • Don’t take live poultry into your house, the bathroom, or in any area where human food or drink is prepared, served, or stored.
  • Don’t eat or drink in areas where birds live or roam.
  • Don’t let children under 5 years handle, snuggle, or kiss chicks or ducklings.



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