Backyard poultry may seem like a good idea ― just think of all the fresh eggs ― but if you start to cuddle your chickens, you could make yourself seriously sick.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say this year has already seen eight separate salmonella outbreaks linked to contact with pet poultry in the U.S. Those outbreaks have sickened more than 370 people in 47 states, hospitalizing 71. And we’re only halfway through 2017.
When the CDC interviewed patients in an attempt to understand the recent outbreaks, nearly half admitted to cuddling their backyard poultry. And while your birds might be adorable, they’re basically living in their own feces. It’s a recipe for salmonella.
Outbreaks linked to live contact with poultry have been on the rise as more people are keeping backyard flocks. It’s part of a nationwide urban farming movement that’s taking hold among people who are environmentally minded, as raising animals at home helps to lower energy usage and carbon emissions that are associated with transporting food.
The CDC offers some advice for those who do keep chickens.
- First, don’t let live poultry live inside the house. (In a survey, it was found that 46 percent of people did let chickens in their house.)
- Always avoid kissing your birds or snuggling them, and then touching your mouth.
- If you can’t resist the urge to snuggle, or you’ve recently touched farming equipment, wash your hands immediately and thoroughly.
Even though these birds are your pets, they are very likely covered in their own poop. No matter how clean and well-tended those pet chicks and fluffy chickens can appear, “chicks, ducklings, and other live poultry that look healthy and clean can still carry salmonella bacteria,” warns the CDC.
It’s time we just resist the urge to cuddle, folks.