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Safely Handling Chicks

The intestinal tracts of all mammals have various types of bacteria as part of their natural intestinal microflora. There are many opportunities for people, especially young children, to be exposed to these bacteria, such as pets, friends, etc. 

Some types of bacteria may cause diseases like salmonella in susceptible humans. When dealing with animals in any situation personal hygiene is important. This is especially true when handling chicks in your backyard and small poultry flocks. Here are some reminders of proper hygiene practices.

Hand-washing is necessary to reduce any risk of bacterial infections. Wash your hands after coming in contact with any animals, birds or eggs. Proper hand-washing techniques include using soap and warm running water and rubbing your hands together vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Make sure you wash the back of your hands and wrists, in between fingers and under your fingernails. Rinse well and thoroughly dry your hands with a paper towel. Turn off faucets with your elbow or a paper towel. 

If there is no access to running water, you should use antibacterial hand sanitizers or wipes with at least a 99 percent bacterial kill rate and then wash your hands as described above as soon as possible. 

Supervise children when handling birds or animals. Don’t allow them to nuzzle or kiss animals, chicks and ducklings. Don’t allow children to touch their mouths or eyes with their hands during or after handling animals and birds prior to hand washing. Make sure children don’t eat and drink before thoroughly washing their hands.

You can do a few other things to reduce your risk of exposure of bacteria. Always clean and sanitize an incubator prior to incubating eggs and only set clean eggs from a reliable source. To prevent the potential transmission of bacteria from adults and children to your chicks or eggs, make sure to wash your hands prior to handling the eggs or birds. You should always thoroughly clean any surfaces that have been contaminated with animal feces. Clean and sanitize the incubator immediately after use and properly dispose of the shells and eggs that do not hatch. 

For more information, contact the Butler County Extension Office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service at 102 Parkway Lane, Morgantown or by calling 270-526-3767.

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expressions, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.

Sources:  Jacqueline Jacob, UK extension poultry project manager

Submitted By: Greg Drake II, County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources


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