Know How to Minimize Health Risks of Raising Backyard Poultry

Know How to Minimize Health Risks of Raising Backyard Poultry
Apr 25, 2023
By Waterbury Roundabout

Whether it's to have a home supply of eggs or just for fun, raising backyard chickens is growing in popularity, and state health and agriculture officials want to pass along steps that can minimize the health risks. 

First, it’s important to know the health risks associated with poultry in order to protect yourself, your family and your flock, according to a recent announcement from the Department of Health.  

Any domesticated bird kept for producing eggs or meat can carry harmful bacteria, including Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli, that make people sick. Backyard flocks can also be breeding grounds for viruses such as avian influenza, also known as bird flu. 

“Raising baby poultry like chicks, ducklings and goslings in your backyard can offer many benefits, such as fresh eggs, opportunities to connect with nature, and education for children and families,” said Dr. Natalie Kwit, Vermont’s public health veterinarian. “But it’s very important to take steps to help minimize the spread of diseases.” 

Certain people are more likely to get severe illness from the bacteria poultry can carry, such as children younger than 5 years old, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems, Kwit said.

Viruses naturally spread among wild birds and can infect domestic poultry and other animals. Some strains of avian flu can cause severe illness or death in infected domestic poultry flocks. While avian influenza viruses usually do not infect people, there have been rare cases of human infection.

There are precautions to take whether one is building their first coop or is already an experienced poultry owner including:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water after touching live poultry or any objects in the area where they live or roam, including eggs.

  • Supervise children around poultry, and make sure they wash their hands thoroughly after being with and near the birds.

  • Don’t kiss or snuggle backyard poultry and then touch your face or mouth.

  • Keep backyard poultry and items used to care for them outside of the house, and especially away from areas where food or drinks are prepared, served, stored, or where dishes are cleaned.

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