Poultry PDA could spread salmonella.

By Tim Nelson
May 22, 2021
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young girl leans forward to kiss a chicken another person is holding
Credit: martin-dm/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been a mainstay in headlines over the last year — and even more so in recent weeks, as the Covid-19 vaccine rollout has continued and the agency changed their advice to allow fully vaccinated Americans to remove their masks. But this is one headline we bet no one at the Atlanta-based public health agency expected to see in 2021.

Indeed, the folks at CDC are here to tell us that smooching or snuggling our backyard poultry is not a great idea.

That rather odd recommendation has nothing to do with Covid-19, as it turns out, but a whole lot to do with an emergent salmonella outbreak sweeping the nation. According to a recently-posted investigation notice, backyard poultry have been credited with 163 cases of salmonella across 43 states, resulting in 34 hospitalizations. 

The issue at hand is that the chickens and ducks some people keep at home can sometimes carry salmonella bacteria, even if they look perfectly healthy and clean — which makes sense given that salmonella isn't visible to the naked eye. Those germs can spread wherever that poultry lives and roams. That can then spread to you if you touch anything laden with salmonella and then eat, or even just touch, your mouth. 

While there are a lot of common sense regulations in the investigation notice, like washing hands and being careful with how you handle your eggs, the CDC also advises against any overt displays of affection towards your birds. "Don't kiss or snuggle backyard poultry," the notice advises, "and don't eat or drink around them." Basically, date night with your egg-laying hens is cancelled until further notice. 

It sure seems like a silly advisory, but getting the message out may be more important than you'd think. Last year, the country saw a surge in folks bringing chickens home to roost, partly out of concern over then-surging egg prices, but just as likely to have something to do amid lockdowns. To be sure, there are more amateur backyard poultry purveyors than there were at this point in 2019.

I'm not sure how you should go about telling your backyard poultry that you just need some space right now, but hopefully they'll understand. Once this salmonella thing blows over, the experience of spending some time not snuggling or kissing your chickens will hopefully only strengthen the relationship. No idea if that'll make the eggs taste any better, though.