Have you ever taken a look at a chicken and felt compelled to plant a big fat smacker right on the beak? No? Really? Well, apparently, for some the urge is eggs-tremely hard to resist. However, according to an updated warning issued by the CDC, doing so could spread dangerous – maybe even life-threatening – Salmonella. So please, no matter how irresistible those little feathered heads may seem, avoid giving them a peck (geddit?).
This isn’t the first time the CDC has warned against getting fresh with your fowl. Back in 2018, they canceled Halloween for our poultry pals, advising against dressing the birds up for fear of spreading multidrug-resistant Salmonella. Then again, in May this year, with 163 cases reported, another warning was issued. At the time of writing, this number had risen to 474 across 46 states, including 103 hospitalizations and one death. It is likely, however, that many more people have become sick than are being reported, as recovery without medical care – and therefore also without a test for Salmonella – is common. According to interviews with 271 of those affected, 77 percent had been in contact with backyard poultry prior to getting sick.
“Backyard poultry, like chicken and ducks, can carry Salmonella germs even if they look healthy and clean,” writes the CDC. “These germs can easily spread to anything in the areas where the poultry live and roam.”
“You can get sick from touching your backyard poultry or anything in their environment and then touching your mouth or food, and swallowing Salmonella germs.”
Most people who come into contact with the Salmonella bacteria will experience diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. A heavy price to pay for some hen hugs. Children are particularly affected – one in three sick people are below the age of five – understandable given their weaker immune systems and natural affinity for the birds.
The CDC recommends that parents “don’t let children younger than 5 years touch chicks, ducklings, or other backyard poultry” and make sure that if they do, they are supervised and wash their hands thoroughly afterward. Likewise, adults are instructed to “wash your hands with soap and water immediately after touching backyard poultry, their eggs, or anything in the area where they live and roam.” Failing that, hand sanitizer will suffice, so you can finally get through all those bottles you’ve hoarded.
Eggs should be cleaned, stored, and cooked correctly to avoid the ingestion of Salmonella, and, unfortunately for the chicks themselves, you should not "kiss or snuggle" them.
This might be easier said than done – for many people, backyard chickens are beloved, they are also far cleverer and more cunning than you might expect – but please, if you’re so inclined, refrain from physical displays of affection lest you wind up with egg on your face. Turns out it could be quite a bit of harm and definitely a lot of fowl.