I used to get sick once in a while. I am not sure if I got it from the chickens, but I had to be put on antibiotics. I kept getting sick week after week until a friend asked me if I was sure I was not getting a bug from the chicken coop.
I became more careful when around the coop and would wash my hands afterward. The sickness stopped.
While there are many benefits of raising backyard chicken, it’s important to consider that handling live poultry can cause some illnesses.
Chickens sometimes carry harmful germs and can cause humans to become sick. Such germs are responsible for various diseases in people, including minor infections on the skin to more serious illnesses that could lead to death.
Whether you have been keeping backyard chickens for a long time or getting your first coop off the ground, you must understand the health risks associated with keeping chickens and the steps you can take to stay safe.
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Diseases caused by chickens to human
The harmful germs in backyard chickens can be found on their bodies, including the feathers, beaks, feet, and in their droppings. This is true even when the chicken seems healthy and clean.
The germs can spread in the chicken coop surroundings and on their caregivers’ shoes, clothes, and hands. Once a person puts a contaminated hand in their mouth, they are likely to get infected.
Below are some of the most common diseases that humans can get from live poultry.
- Salmonella Disease
Salmonella disease is one of the common causes of death for young children and the elderly because of their suppressed immune systems. While a clean and well-maintained backyard chicken coop may reduce the chances of getting salmonella, it’s important to understand that such a flock may still carry salmonella.
So you have to be careful when handling them.
Chicken may carry salmonella and show no signs of the illness, especially when they are well-nourished and thus able to suppress the bacteria.
Salmonella can be passed from one bird to another or from hen to an egg. It lives in the chicken’s intestines and is passed as chicken dropping.
Signs of salmonella disease in chickens include
- Ruffled feathers
- Hunched up
- Closed eyes
- Decreased appetite
- Depressed look
If you suspect that your chicken may be ailing from salmonella, you need to get a fecal sample to the veterinarian for testing. Salmonella is treatable with antibiotics.
- Listeria Disease
Listeria is a less common illness compared to salmonella.
Listeria is commonly found residing in the guts of your chicken and will unlikely cause problems for your chicken for a while. Its signs are
- Lethargic look
- Ruffled feathers
- Closed eyes
In severe cases, it may attack the brain, causing paralysis or unsteady walking and eventually the chicken’s death. When detected in the early stages disease process, it is treatable with antibiotics.
- Campylobacter Disease in Backyard Chicken
Campylobacter is a non-pathogenic disease in chicken, and it rarely requires treatment with antibiotics.
Chickens can pick it from insects, rodents, or other animals.
Campylobacter in chicken is responsible for most Campylobacter illness cases in humans.
Chickens suffering from campylobacter will have the following symptoms:
- Isolating self
- Look unwell
It causes abdominal cramps, severe diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and fever in humans.
- E.coli Disease in backyard chicken
E.coli is common and lives in our intestines without causing problems and helping in the digestive process.
However, if E.coli turns up in other parts, this becomes an issue.
It’s an opportunistic disease that strikes when the health of the infected chicken or person is compromised.
In chickens, it usually manifests as egg yolk peritonitis.
The most common way for humans to get infected is by consuming improperly cooked food or not washing hands after handling chicken.
Can humans get respiratory infections from chickens?
Several respiratory infections can affect humans through inhalation or contact with the mouth or eyes. These include the Avian Influenza virus, which can appear in chickens and is transmitted through mucus, saliva, and feces.
Its symptoms in humans include fever, stuffy or runny nose, sore throat or cough, fatigue, and body aches.
Another respiratory disease passed through inhalations of the germs in the environment is histoplasmosis. It’s mostly found in coops with large quantities of droppings.
Dangers of keeping chickens in your house
It’s not a great idea to have chickens living with you in your house.
Having chickens inside your house turns your home into a chicken farm and brings all the risks of contamination and infections closer.
Protecting yourself from getting sick from your chickens
You should know that the elderly and young children are at a higher risk because their immune systems are weaker.
So they shouldn’t get in contact with the chickens.
Additionally, we have a few more steps you can take to ensure that you and your family are protected around backyard chickens.
- Use soap and running water every time you touch your chicken, collect eggs, and touch the manual, litter, nesting material, and the surrounding environment. Do not touch your mouth before washing your hands.
- Always help children with handwashing, especially after contact with the chicken.
- Supervise children and ensure they don’t kiss, cuddle or touch their mouths or faces after handling a chicken.
- Do not eat or drink anything around the chickens and ensure you clean your hands before eating.
- Have some boots and shoes worn inside the chicken coop and remove them before entering your house.
- Wear gloves and a dust mask when cleaning the chicken coop or when changing nesting material.
Eggshells can get contaminated with germs such as salmonella from chicken droppings in the coop. The following tips can help keep your family safe when collecting and using eggs from your backyard chickens.
- Wash your hands thoroughly using soap and water after collecting or touching eggs.
- Clean the coop regularly
- Collects your eggs often to reduce the chances of contamination
- Do not use eggs with broken or cracked shells
- When washing eggs, don’t use cold water because it can pull germs into the egg; rather, use warm water.
- Ensure that your eggs are cooked properly to kill any bacteria that may have contaminated the egg.
The most important note is to maintain hygiene and cleanliness when handling your backyard chicken.
With proper safety precautions, it’s unlikely that your backyard flock will get you sick.
However, it’s important to watch out for any signs of illness and get tests done to rule out infections.