Like cats and dogs, chickens are often now part of the family, providing eggs for breakfast but also companionship. The more pets feel like family members, the more their humans want to snuggle and kiss them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, recommends recommends not getting too touchy-feely with your backyard chickens.
The CDC notes that more than 180 people have contracted salmonella nationwide due to their contact with chickens. according to NPR.
Of those 180 people, 33 were hospitalized.
“We do not recommend snuggling or kissing the birds or touching them to your mouth because that is certainly one way people become infected with salmonella,” Dr. Megin Nichols, a CDC veterinarian, told NPR. “While poultry do appear clean they do carry bacteria,” she added. “We encourage that people live in their environments indoors and poultry stay outdoors.”
Some chicken owners who view the birds as pets, however, believe that the benefits of cuddling with the chickens outweigh the risks. One such owner, Lynette Mattke, told NPR that her favorite chicken, Caledonia, “just cuddles in. 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.”
Elia, Mattke’s 18-year-old daughter, agrees. “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 said. “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.”
Mattke added that the chickens have a calming effect on her when she needs a moment to de-stress. The CDC, however, still warns against such actions.
What do you think? If you have chickens, do you (or will you) follow the CDC’s recommendation to not touch or kiss them or do you agree with Mattke in that the benefits outweigh the risks?