Chicks, Ducklings, and Germs
Young poultry may have Salmonella bacteria on their bodies, even when they are healthy and look clean. The germs also get on cages and other things the birds touch. Salmonella bacteria on your hands can spread to other people, surfaces, or infect you – if you don't wash up.
You Can Get Sick
Anyone can get a Salmonella infection, which can cause serious illness. Children are especially at risk of illness because they are less likely to wash their hands and have more frequent hand-to-mouth contact than adults.
Symptoms of Salmonella infection begin about one to three days after exposure and include diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain. Illness usually lasts four to seven days and most people will recover without medical treatment. However, in some people the symptoms may be so severe that medical treatment or a stay in the hospital is needed. Infants, children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to experience severe illness. Call your health care provider, if you or your child has a high fever, severe diarrhea, or other symptoms that concern you.
Don't Spread Salmonella
- Wash hands with soap and water after touching chicks and ducklings.
It is the single most important thing you can do! When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand wipes and gel sanitizers may be used. Sanitizers may not be as effective if hands are too dirty. Clean off as much dirt as possible before using sanitizers.
- Young poultry are not good pets for children under 5 years old.
Raising poultry can be a great experience, but sometimes adults make the mistake of giving a chick or duckling to a young child as a spontaneous gift. Young poultry given as pets to children often don't survive, and if they do, they aren't as cute and cuddly when they're adults. Young children are also more at risk from severe illness from Salmonella.
- Supervise children when handling poultry.
Don't allow children to nuzzle or kiss chicks and ducklings, touch their mouths with their hands, or eat and drink while handling birds.
- Keep young poultry away from family living spaces.
Keep birds and their equipment out of the kitchen. Disinfect areas where feeders, water containers, and cages are cleaned.
Download and print your own "After You Touch a Duck or Chick, Wash Your Hands, So You Don't Get Sick" educational materials.
- Poster English (PDF)
- Handout English (PDF) Spanish (PDF)
- Chick Sticker English (PDF) Spanish (PDF)
- Duck Sticker English (PDF) Spanish (PDF)
- How to Prepare for a Healthy Family and Flock (PDF)
- Eggs and Backyard Poultry Egg Safety
- Keeping Live Poultry, CDC (handle birds safely, keep poultry outside, safely clean coops)
- Washington State Department of Agriculture's Avian Health Program