Backyard Chickens
You might be thinking…not in my neighborhood! I would say, don’t be too sure! I live in San Francisco….yes, in the City. And I have three neighbors within a 5-block radius that have chickens…that is that I know about! ;-)

Backyard chickens have become a coveted urban AND suburban fixture, one that packages convenience and local food production in one fluffy feathered package…not to mention a certain cachet!

But animal husbandry/urban farming can have a downside and frankly ca be a nasty business…one fact that is often glossed over by poultry partisans.

The CDC report known as Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) is all about the facts.  Last week the MMWR which chronicle of all things contagious, reported on a 2012 salmonella outbreak among 195 people in 27 states. Most had had contact with live chickens, and many had purchased the birds from an Ohio mail-order hatchery for backyard flocks.

The hatchery that was the source of the birds participated in a program to eliminate the spread of salmonella strains that cause illness in birds, but doesn’t certify the poultry as free of strains that could infect people.

But it’s no surprise to anybody in the zoonotic disease world that chickens can spread human disease. Remember those warnings not to buy baby chicks for Easter presents? One big reason is that they can spread salmonella.

How do chickens spread the disease?  The CDC notes that humans can get salmonella from chickens by touching them or their manure. The birds can spread the bacteria even when they look healthy. The agency says the best way to reduce risk is to wash hands after handling birds — and make sure that children wash their hands, too.

Public health officials are also worried about backyard flocks and bird flu. The USDA provides tips on how to keep domestic fowl from playing a role in a future global pandemic, with no less than backyard poultry expert Andy Schneider, aka The Chicken Whisperer, as their spokesperson.