If you are among the growing numbers of households in Dane County that have backyard chickens, there are certain preventive measures you should take to:
- Protect yourself from Salmonella
- Keep lead contamination out of eggs
- Prevent rat infestations
Protect yourself from Salmonella
The number of salmonella infections in the U.S. is increasing as more people are keeping backyard chickens. Salmonella bacteria are very common in chickens, and many have the bacteria in their droppings or even on their bodies. Salmonella can cause:
- Abdominal cramps
The elderly, infants, and those with weakened immune systems are most likely to get severe illness that may lead to hospitalization.
- People get Salmonella when things that have been in contact with chickens, like their hands, are put near or in their mouth.
- Supervise children under the age of 5 with chickens, and help them wash hands with soap and water after touching them.
- Anyone who handles chickens, their droppings, or has touched anything in the area where they live also should wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- Chickens should not be brought into homes, snuggled, or kissed.
- Keeping Backyard Poultry, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Kissing chickens is bad for your health, CDC warns, Washington Post
Keep Lead Contamination out of Eggs
It is possible for lead to contaminate eggs, leading to lead poisoning in those who eat the eggs. The highest levels of lead usually are found in the yolk and shell. Eating soil contaminated with lead is the most common way chickens are exposed to lead. Items that can contaminate the soil include:
- Lead-based paint chips
- Fishing sinkers
- Shotgun pellets
- Manufacturing residue
- Exhaust fumes from leaded automotive fuels
- Make sure that your chicken coop is not near a dwelling or area with peeling or chipping paint, or built with old wood that has peeling or chipping paint.
- Have the soil in and around your chicken coop tested for lead.
- If your soil has high lead levels, raise the coop off the ground.
- If you find out your eggs contain lead, do not feed the egg shells back to the chickens or add them to a compost pile.
Test for Lead
State Lab of Hygiene can test soil and egg yolks for lead. Call (800) 442-4618 or (608) 224-6202.
Prevent Rat Infestations
Rats are attracted to chicken coops as a source of food. If they have access to your coop, infestations can occur.
Rat-proof Your Chicken Coop
Eliminate their food source:
- Collect eggs frequently
- Store chicken feed in a metal bin with a tight fitting lid
- Don't leave chicken feed and water out at night.
- If building a new coop, build it at least one foot off the ground, or make the floor out of cement.
- If you have an existing coop with a dirt floor, cover it with hardware cloth that you staple a few inches up the wall.
How to Get Rid of Rats in the Chicken Coop: The Definitive Guide, Backyard Chicken Project