Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky

Salmonella (Image by Kateryna Kon on

Outbreaks in humans of Salmonella infection, or salmonellosis, linked to live poultry in backyard flocks continue to occur. In an outbreak occurring during 2014, the two types of Salmonella involved are Salmonella Infantis and Salmonella Newport. As of May 27, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 126 people from 26 states had been infected. In 2015 there were four outbreaks of Salmonella related to backyard flocks. The affected Salmonella species were Salmonella Enteritidis, Salmonella Hadar, Salmonella Indiana, Salmonella Muenchen, and Salmonella Muenster.  A total of 252 people were affected in 43 states with 63 hospitalizations. In 2016 there were seven outbreaks of Salmonella, also related to backyard flocks. There were 895 people affected in 48 states with 209 hospitalizations and 3 deaths. Again, in 2017 there were 1120 cases in 48 states with 249 hospitalizations and one death, In 2018, there have been 212 cases in 44 states with 34 hospitalizations. In 2019, CDC and public health officials in 49 states investigated 13 multistate outbreaks of Salmonella infections linked to contact with backyard poultry. There were 1134 people who got sick, with 219 hospitalizations, and two deaths. In 2020, CDC and public health officials in all 50 states investigated 17 multistate outbreaks of Salmonella illnesses linked to contact with poultry in backyard flocks. The number of illnesses reported this year was higher than the number reported during any of the past years’ outbreaks linked to backyard flocks. There were 1722 people sick, with 333 hospitalizations, and one death.


How do people get salmonellosis from chicks?

Poultry can have Salmonella in their manure and on their feathers, feet, and beaks. Yet they may appear completely healthy and clean. Also, Salmonella can get on housing, equipment, bedding, and soil in the area where the birds are kept. The bacteria can be transferred to the hands, shoes, and clothing of those who handle the birds or work or play where the birds have been. People become infected when they put contaminated hands or items in or around their mouths.

What should you do?

All chicks have the potential to be infected with different types of Salmonella. Chicks carry Salmonella in their digestive tracts, and the bacteria are shed with the chicks’ manure. As with other animals infected with Salmonella, infected chicks may appear healthy and clean and show no signs of illness. As a result, contact with live poultry and their environment requires attention to sanitation. The following safe practices should be followed when handling any poultry:

  • Wash your hands after touching poultry or equipment in their surroundings, using proper hand-washing techniques. Proper hand-washing techniques include using soap and warm, running water; rubbing your hands vigorously with soap and water for 20 seconds (about the time it takes to sing the alphabet song); washing the backs of your hands, your wrists, between your fingers, and under your fingernails; rinsing well; drying thoroughly with a paper towel; and turning off water faucets with your elbow or a paper towel.
  • If you do not have access to a hand-washing facility, use hand sanitizer until you are able to wash your hands.
  • Ensure that a child handling chicks keeps his or her hands away from the face, especially the mouth and eyes.
  • Do not snuggle or kiss chicks.
  • Do not let poultry inside the house or in outdoor-living spaces, especially in areas where food and drink are prepared, served, or stored. Such areas include kitchens and outdoor patios.
  • Do not clean poultry equipment in areas where food and drink are prepared, such as a kitchen sink. It is better to wash such equipment outside the house.


CDC advice to consumers

CDC publications and brochures

Safe handling of chicks (University of Kentucky)