Backyard chicken Salmonella outbreak sickens 600

Posted at 10:43 PM, Jul 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-21 13:45:59-04

More than 600 people have gotten sick and one person has died after eight different Salmonella outbreaks around the country.

Those with the CDC said the bacteria has been spreading through backyard chickens.

Kentucky has been one of the hardest-hit states with 35 cases reported. Tennessee has eight people who have gotten sick.

But, as the popularity of backyard chickens has continued to grow, there are simple ways to keep your family safe.

Paul Kenny isn't a farmer, he actually runs a mechanic shop, but he comes home every night to his wife, his dog, and five hens and a rooster.

"These are silver laced Wyandotte," he said, throwing down corn for two of his hens. "They've got the collars. I call those the nuns!"

Paul has been one of many people turning to backyard chickens for pets and a source of food.

"If you got six chickens you end up with a dozen eggs every two days," he said. His chickens are free-range and can wander about his large Wilson County (Tennessee) property.

But he has known chickens naturally carry Salmonella in their system.

"Salmonella's always a problem," he said.

And the CDC has been warning chicken owners of the dangers after the recent outbreaks.

Paul said he only uses one pair of shoes inside the coop. He also makes sure everyone who touches the chickens washes their hands with soap and water immediately afterward.

"There are millions of chickens here in Tennessee because of the commercial industry," said Department of Agriculture Poultry Improvement Plan Manager Tina Rogers.

Rogers said chicks may be cute, but cuddling with them and kissing them can be dangerous.

"Small children need to be monitored when interacting with poultry, you need to make sure you use very thorough hand washing techniques afterwards," she said.

Paul has wanted to keep both his chickens and his family safe, so he can continue harvesting free range eggs laid right in his own back yard.

"I give them away to everybody and take them to work, and the neighbors love them and you kind of become the neighborhood egg guy," he laughed.

The Salmonella doesn't affect the chickens, so even if your flock looks completely healthy it can still pass the bacteria to you.
That's why the CDC said never let your chickens inside the house, especially in areas where you eat or prepare food.