Durham County

Worried about backyard chickens and Salmonella? Here’s what to do

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked some salmonella cases to handling of backyard chickens.
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked some salmonella cases to handling of backyard chickens. MCT

A recent Centers for Disease Control report linked a Salmonella outbreak to keeping backyard chickens, but local gardeners say Durham residents who want to keep chickens should just follow a few simple precautions.

The staff at the SEEDS garden in Durham recommends that chicken handlers wash their hands and use hand sanitizer, said Lara Ezor, operations and volunteer coordinator for SEEDS. SEEDS also keeps hand sanitizer available in its chicken areas, Ezor said. Before cooking any eggs from their chickens, SEEDS also washes them, she said.

The garden operates The Chicken Brigade, which gives residents who are thinking about having backyard chickens a chance to see what the process requires.

The CDC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service investigated “10 separate multistate outbreaks of Salmonella infections in people who had contact with live poultry in backyard flocks,” a CDC release stated.

The CDC reported that 418 people have been infected since June 1 of this year. As of July 17, 790 people had contracted salmonella across the country. North Carolina had 39 cases as of that date. States with comparable numbers included Ohio with 45, Tennessee with 38, and Florida with 30. Virginia had the highest number, 52.

No deaths have been reported from Salmonella, but 174 people have been hospitalized because of it.

Salmonella is usually contracted from eating bad food, it can be passed from animals to humans, according to the CDC. In addition to poultry, reptiles, amphibians, rodents, dogs, cats and farm animals can carry Salmonella. Salmonella is naturally in the intestines of many different animals. Animals with Salmonella shed the bacteria in their stool, which can easily contaminate their body parts and the areas where they live.

The CDC recommends that people who raise chickens wash their hands after handling the animals, as well as bedding, food and other items the animals touch.

The city of Durham has allowed backyard chickens since 2009. The ordinance allows hens only (no roosters because of their noise) and requires a permit. Up to 10 chickens may be kept, and eggs are for personal use only. The ordinance further spells out rules for chicken coops and their maintenance, and for proper composting of chicken waste.

Cliff Bellamy: 919-419-6744, @CliffBellamy1

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