Many families raise a small number of chickens, particularly in rural areas. In recent years, however, raising chickens has become a popular hobby for people who live in urban areas as well. Information that promotes raising chickens touts the birds as being good pets, stress relievers, and easy to keep. Most people though, choose to keep flocks because they believe the meat and eggs they grow will be safer and less expensive than store purchased products.
Whether they are pets or a source of food, there are some issues that need to be considered before deciding to raise chickens. In addition to the fact that many urban areas will not allow chickens to be raised within city/town limits, keeping chickens poses a potential health risk.
Chickens, turkeys, ducks, and other poultry frequently carry bacteria that can cause illness to you and your family. Baby chicks may be especially prone to shed these germs and cause human illness. Young birds are often shipped several times before they reach a permanent home. Shipment and adapting to new locations causes stress on birds and makes them more likely to shed bacteria in their droppings. One of the most important bacteria you need to be aware of is Salmonella.
Birds infected with Salmonella do not usually appear sick. Salmonella lives in the intestine of infected chickens, and can be shed in large numbers in the droppings. Once shed, bacteria can spread across the chicken’s body as the bird cleans itself and throughout the environment as the chicken walks around.
Therefore, it is especially important to carefully wash hands with soap and water after handling young birds or anything that has come in contact with them.