by Victoria Simpson
Did you kiss your chicken today?
Backyard poultry is a hobby that has boomed across North America in the past 10 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that more than 180 people have come down with Salmonella poisoning this year in the US from being too affectionate with their chickens. 33 of the reported cases required hospitalization.
Backyard chicken groups abound on the Internet, and information on which breeds are great for families is easy to obtain. An article on NPR’s website quotes chicken owner Lynette Mattke as she shows her affection for her pets.
“This is my favorite, Caledonia. I think she’s the prettiest, too.”
The chicken is reported as snuggling close to her owner.
“You see Caledonia, she just cuddles in,” says Mattke. “She loves to stick her head under my arm. Our friends who come to visit [the chickens] are always so surprised at how soft they are. Because I guess people think about their beaks and their feet, which aren’t soft. But their feathers are just so smooth and soft.”
Mattke’s teenage daughter, Elia, claims that picking up pet chickens is important for owners to do.
“If they’re used to humans holding them then you can walk in [to the coop] without worrying about are they going to jump or get scared,” she says. “You want to be able to come into the pen to feed them and water them without them starting to fly all around and go crazy.”
In general, the Mattke family is reported to feel that the benefits of holding their chickens outweigh the risks of contracting salmonella from them.
US health officials and The Public Health Agency of Canada may differ from the Mattkes. Neither promote cuddling poultry. Both state that it’s important to wash your hands after handling animals such as reptiles, amphibians, pocket pets (hedgehogs and rodents), birds, livestock, and dogs and cats can as they can all be hosts to the bad bacteria.
Canada’s agency notes that, furthermore, if you ARE infected with the Salmonella you may not get sick or show symptoms, but you can carry the bacteria and spread the infection to others.
While eating foods contaminated with Salmonella is the most common way of coming in contact with the bacteria, (by eating such things as raw or under cooked poultry, contaminated eggs and egg products and raw fruits and vegetables), the rise in cuddling catastrophes is playing a notable role.
Clean all cooking surfaces when preparing raw meat and other food and wash fruits and vegetables before eating them.
And always wash your skin thoroughly after having a snuggle with Chester and friends.