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Keeping backyard poultry: How to get started safely

A newly hatched chicken stands by a broken egg shell.

July 13, 2021—Across the United States, many people are choosing to keep backyard poultry like chickens, ducks and geese. While having your own flock at home can be satisfying and fun, birds can carry germs like salmonella.

Before you add chickens or other birds to your backyard or rooftop garden, consider this list of do's and don'ts for raising your own poultry.

Do's

  • Buy chicks from a National Poultry Improvement Plan-certified flock. These animals must meet certain health and sanitation standards.
  • Wash your hands after any interaction with your animals. This includes picking up or handling birds, collecting eggs, or cleaning out their coop or living area.
  • Pick eggs carefully and store them in the fridge. Throw out any cracked eggs. Cracks in an eggshell can let germs into the egg itself.
  • Clean dirt off eggs with a brush, cloth or fine sandpaper.
  • Build a coop to protect your birds from predators and disease.
  • Keep the coop clean. First, clean out debris with a brush soaked in warm water and soap. Then use a commercial disinfectant made for this purpose to clean all surfaces your birds have touched. Follow the label instructions for preparing and using the disinfectant.

Don'ts

  • Do not let children under 5 years touch poultry. Young kids are more likely to get sick from germs like salmonella.
  • Do not let poultry into your home.
  • Do not wash eggs. Washing eggs can increase the chances of bacteria getting into the egg through pores in the shell.
  • Don't touch your face after handling poultry.
  • Don't eat or drink in areas where your backyard flock lives. This can increase the likelihood that you will come into contact with germs.
  • Do not let other pets interact with your poultry. Bacteria like salmonella can be passed on to cats, dogs and other animals.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Agriculture

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