Salmonella infection, or salmonellosis, is a bacterial disease that can make animals and humans very ill. Salmonella bacteria live in human and animal intestines, and people most often become infected through contaminated food or water. The Centers for Disease Control note that people can get sick from salmonella merely from touching poultry or the birds’ environment, even if the birds appear healthy and clean.
Symptoms of salmonella poisoning usually begin 12 to 72 hours after infection, but can take up to six days to appear. Diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and fever are common symptoms. The diarrhea is typically loose and not bloody. Nausea, vomiting, headache, and muscle aches may occur. Luckily for us, the CDC has come up with a handy list of safe-handling trips to avoid this issue with your backyard layers!
If your flock has a salmonella infection, your poultry will be lethargic, weak, have little to no appetite, and be very thirsty. Birds laying eggs will have reduced production, and you may see some chickens with swollen eyes, blindness, or swollen joints. In young birds and chicks, you can see signs of depression, dehydration, diarrhea, stunted growth, and general weakness. If usually happy chickens are acting strange, you should take them to a veterinarian.
Helping your chickens stay free of illness starts with where you buy them. Hatcheries participating in the National Poultry Improvement Plan will monitor diseases and won’t sell chicks or eggs carrying deadly diseases. You can keep your current poultry safe and avoid attracting salmonella by purchasing your eggs or birds from these hatcheries.
You should plan to frequently clean your coop and any other areas your poultry wanders. Eliminating or reducing the feces your birds may come in contact with will lower the chances that your chickens will get salmonella poisoning. Additionally, it will help ensure their eggs do not get contaminated.
Avoid sharing your coop tools with friends and neighbors. Transporting shovels, buckets, rakes, and other implements between farms is a quick way to bring diseases and bacteria to your animals. If you must share tools, always be sure you disinfect them before using them near your chickens.
Keeping your chickens separate from other wildlife will also reduce the chances of attracting salmonella. Rodents can carry salmonella, and when they come in contact with your birds, they can transfer the disease. On top of preventing predatory attacks, you can help keep them healthy by building a fence or strengthening the coop.
You can come in contact with salmonella even if your chickens are healthy and seemingly functioning as usual. Traces of bacteria can be hiding in the feces of your chickens, cats, dogs, or other wild animals. If your chickens have been pecking and walking in areas where they may contract salmonella bacteria, they could pass it to you when you pick them up or hold them. Additionally, some eggshells become contaminated with salmonella when the chicken lays them, due to the droppings that fall on them.
To keep your family healthy, follow the tips below when collecting and handling eggs from a backyard flock:
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