chicken in backyard coop

If you have backyard chickens, there are measures you should take to:


Protect yourself from Salmonella

Salmonella bacteria are very common in chickens. Many have the bacteria in their droppings or even on their bodies. Salmonella can cause:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps

If you are elderly, have an infant, or have a weakened immune system you are more likely to get very sick or be hospitalized from salmonella.

Reducing your risk

  • Don't put hands or other things that have been in contact with chickens in or near your mouth.
  • Supervise children under the age of 5 with chickens, and help them wash hands with soap and water after touching them.
  • Wash hands well with soap and water after handling chickens, their droppings, or touching anything in the area where they live.
  • Don’t let chickens in your home, and don’t snuggle or kiss them.

Keep Lead out of Eggs

Lead can contaminate eggs, leading to lead poisoning in those who eat the eggs. The highest levels of lead are usually found in the yolk and shell. Eating soil contaminated with lead is the most common way chickens are exposed to lead. Things that can contaminate the soil include:

  • Lead-based paint chips
  • Fishing sinkers
  • Shotgun pellets
  • Manufacturing residue
  • Exhaust fumes from leaded automotive fuels

Reducing your risk

  • 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.


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