Backyard Chickens Surge In Popularity, But So Does Salmonella
The coronavirus pandemic means more people are spending time at home, and for some, more boredom. To fight that, many are picking up new hobbies, including one you might not expect: raising backyard chickens.
“We’ve been raising our own chickens for over a year now,” says Lacey Resch, a Macon resident. “One day he (my husband) came home with a little box, and said ‘Look what followed me home,’ and it was baby chicks!”
Lacey and her husband, D.S Resch, own 19 chickens that they raise in their backyard. The chickens have become pets for the couple, and many even have their own names.
“So we have Estelle Getty, we have Ramona Quimby, we have Samantha, the list goes on,” Resch says while pointing to each chicken. “They’re really more like pets for us.”
The raising of chickens at home has increased in popularity recently, especially in the face of COVID-19, with many families in the Southeast bringing in backyard poultry. For some the birds are considered pets but for others they are kept to increase a family’s food supply as eggs have gone up in price and shortages have been reported in some parts of the country.
Hatcheries across the country are also reporting a sharp increase in demand for baby chicks.
The hobby is not without risk, however. The CDC recently reported a salmonella outbreak in backyard poultry. This outbreak consists of over 90 reported cases across the country as of the end of May, including here in Georgia. Experts say you need to stay safe when handling the birds.
“Children or other people may get exposed to the feces or bacteria more directly from holding the chickens,”said Dr. Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, Director of the Food Safety program at the University of Georgia. “It is very critical to practice safe hygiene, and wash your hands.”
While Dr. Gonzalez says this outbreak is not happening in the professional poultry industry, it is still important to remind families with backyard chickens to stay safe around their new flocks.
As people consider keeping backyard chickens it’s important to note that a newborn chick can take around 17 weeks to start laying eggs and once grown can produce around five eggs per week. There’s also the cost of a chicken coop, feed and the time it takes to feed and care for them.