The Center for Disease Control suggests these precautions for reducing the chance of contracting Salmonella:
- Always wash your hands with soap and water right after touching live poultry or equipment. Adults should supervise handwashing by young children. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available.
- Also, don’t let live poultry inside the house, especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored.
- Don’t let children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65, or people with weakened immune systems from conditions such as cancer treatment, HIV/AIDS or organ transplants, handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry.
- Don’t eat or drink in the area where the birds live or roam.
- Avoid kissing your birds or snuggling them, and then touching your mouth.
- Stay outdoors when cleaning any equipment used to raise or care for live poultry, such as cages or feed or water containers.
- Buy birds from hatcheries that participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Poultry Improvement Plan (USDA-NPIP) U.S. voluntary Salmonella Monitoring Program. This program is intended to reduce the incidence of Salmonella in baby poultry in the hatchery, which helps prevent the spread of illness among poultry and people.
(Yes, My Pet Chicken's hatchery is NPIP certified)! The truth is that data shows small scale farming actually helps protect us and our food supply. We'd like to see more statistics related to salmonella. But we already know that “When it comes to bird flu, diverse small-scale poultry farming is the solution, not the problem." We also know that “the key to protecting backyard poultry and people from bird flu is to protect them from industrial poultry and poultry products.” (My emphasis added.) In other words, making sure that we have the right to small flocks of backyard chickens is a way to protect ourselves and our communities from the diseases that proliferate in large scale commercial operations where tens of thousands of birds are concentrated together in a very small space.
We don't want to downplay the importance of responsible handling. But recommendations against handling at all? Even the FDA doesn't recommend NOT touching your birds at all. This seems more than a little silly. At the least, monitor your chickens' health. Checked them over for mites and lice. If they are limping, look for bumblefoot, and so on. To do that you need to, you know, touch them. This is responsible ownership, something sorely lacking in commercial operations where the birds are just too numerous for anyone to notice problems. Families keeping small numbers of chickens as pets—because pets get good care and are closely monitored for health—is one of the best ways to safeguard our food supplies. Read more about commonsense biosecurity on our website (HINT: you should do things like wash your hands, use clean equipment, buy from reputable hatcheries or breeders and so on---just like you would with other animals). You can also read about how salmonella is more of a danger with factory farmed birds---and even watch the FDA's videos about how to responsibly handle your backyard birds. Maybe the CDC and FDA should get together and agree upon handling recommendations. What do you think?