Health Risks of Raising Chickens at Home

Many families are now raising a small flock of chickens at home, particularly in rural areas. Recently raising chickens has become popular in urban areas as well.

Chickens can be good pets, help relieve stress and are relatively easy to keep. Whether you choose to raise chickens as pets or a food source, please be advised that certain issues should be considered.

In addition to the fact that many urban or industrial areas do not permit chickens to be raised within a city or town limit, keeping chickens can pose a potential health risk.

Any type of poultry can potentially carry bacteria that can cause illness to you and your family. Baby peeps are more prone to spread these germs and cause sickness than an adult bird.

If you purchase chicks via catalog, they are often shipped several times before they reach their new home. The process of shipping chickens can cause stress on the birds and make them more likely to spread bacteria in their droppings. The risk of infection from said droppings is higher for children, older people and people with weaker immune systems.

Salmonella is one of the most important bacteria you should be aware of.

As Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. You should consider implementing the following precautions while raising your chickens at home:

  • Baby peeps and adult chickens should be kept away from people with weak immune systems. Those include, but are not limited to, older individuals, pregnant women, diabetics, and people receiving chemotherapy.
  • Err on the side of caution in households with children less than 5 years old.
  • Supervise the hand washing of all children that handle peeps or chickens. Ensure they wash their hands afterward, as children less than 5 years old have a tendency to put things in their mouths, contaminated or not. Be sure they washed their hands adequately.
  • Always wash with soap and water after touching anything in the chicken coop. If soap is unavailable, use an alcohol based sanitizer that is approved for children.
  • Wash all chicken-related paraphernalia with hot soapy water or with a mild bleach solution.
  • Do not eat or drink around the chicken coop.
  • Chickens should not be kept near food preparation areas.
  • Do not wash anything from the chicken coop, such as feeders or water pails, in the kitchen.
  • Free-range chickens should not be allowed to roam freely around the house. They should still be kept in a fenced-in area designated for their use.
  • Clean the area where chickens are kept OFTEN.
  • Seek medical assistance if you experience unexplained abdominal pain, fever or diarrhea.

Maintaining sanitary conditions will go a long way in reducing the risk of spreading germs and is, in my estimation, one of the most important precautions you can implement in the raising of your small flock.