Protect yourself from salmonella when handling chicks and ducklings

We hear about taking precautions to avoid getting salmonella when cooking chicken, but we forget it can also be passed along from handling our feathered friends.

Baby chicks and ducklings are out in full force this spring. Every time you go to the post office or local farm supply store, you will probably hear the unmistakable peep or quack of baby chicks and ducklings. It is all too easy to pick them up, admire their fluffiness and never think twice about the potential for them to make us sick.

Michigan State University Extension is working with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) to help raise awareness of the dangers of salmonella and how you can prevent it. You can avoid getting salmonella by washing your hands before and after handling chicks, avoiding touching chicks to your face and not kissing them.

Salmonella is a common bacteria found in the droppings of poultry that can cause illness in people. It can cause a person to experience diarrhea, vomiting, fever and abdominal cramps lasting four to seven days or more. Although salmonella doesn’t generally make poultry sick, it should always be assumed baby chicks and ducklings are carrying salmonella.

“Washing your hands before and after handling chicks and other poultry is not only important for your bird’s health, it protects both you and your family from the risk of salmonella,” said Dr. James Averill, state veterinarian. “Even birds appearing healthy can carry bacteria that can make people sick.”

Here are some tips from MDARD to help you protect yourself and others from getting salmonella:

  • Children younger than 5, older adults or people with weak immune systems should not handle or touch chicks, ducklings or other poultry because they are more likely to become severely ill.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching birds or anything in their environment. Adults should supervise hand-washing for young children.
  • Use hand sanitizer until you can wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Always keep poultry away from areas where food or drink is prepared, served or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios.
  • Do not kiss chicks.
  • Do not touch your mouth, smoke, eat or drink after handling poultry.

Remember to practice good biosecurity and frequently clean all equipment such as cages, feed, water containers and other materials associated with raising or caring for poultry.

For more information about salmonella, visit “Spring and Baby Poultry are Here!” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To learn more about Michigan 4-H Animal Science programs, please visit MSU Extension’s Animal Science page.

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