GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (KXAN/WOOD) — The growing popularity of raising chickens in city backyards is leading to a growing health problem.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 600 people have contracted salmonella from backyard chickens and ducks since Jan. 4.
The outbreak spans 45 states, including Michigan. Of the 611 cases, 44 were reported in Michigan; at least six of those people were hospitalized. Only New York and Ohio had more total cases, at 67 and 56 respectively.
The CDC expects the outbreak to continue for the next several months, since new poultry owners might not be aware of the Salmonella risks harbored by their flock.
“Not everyone is as concerned as they should be about contamination,” said Ken Bushong, owner of Buck Moore Feed and Supply in Austin, Texas. “Everyone should always wash up after handling chickens.”
Bushong says the number of backyard chicken owners has skyrocketed over the past 10 years. When they originally opened shop in 1972, the majority of customers were farmers. Now it’s a totally different story.
“We sell about a ton [of feed] a day now. Given the fact a chicken eats around a quarter-of-a-pound a day, that’s a lot of chickens,” he exclaimed.
He stresses sanitation to his customers.
“Keeping all the cages and grounds clean. And all the feeders and waters cleaned up,” said Bushong.
Homeowner Ellie Hanlon has had chickens for more than three years now.
“They’re really kind of fun pets. Easy to take care of, and the eggs, you can’t beat the eggs,” said Hanlon.
She has a routine every morning when taking care of the chickens, which always ends with her washing her hands.
“If for any reason we do have people over and we’re serving food in this area, and we think kids may have been touching the chickens, we’ll bring out hand sanitizer,” said Hanlon.
Health officials say if you’re going to handle chickens, always wash your hands right after with soap and water. They don’t recommend letting live poultry in the house, especially where food and drinks are stored.
Grand Rapids began allowing residents to raise chickens in their backyards last year.The original version of this story was first reported by KXAN.com.