Just as owners can form strong bonds with their cats and dogs, people that own chickens can and do too! So much so that many choose to bring their chickens in their house. But…… is it safe to keep chickens in your house?
While it is easy to form strong bonds with our little feathered friends, keeping pet chickens in the house can be very dangerous to the whole family and does not allow a chicken to live like it needs to live.
This article will cover:
- 7 Proven Dangerous Infections Chickens Can Pass to Humans
- How to Help Prevent Getting Chicken Illnesses
- FAQ About Bringing Chickens Indoors
7 Infections Chickens Can Pass to Humans
1. URINARY TRACT INFECTION
A specific bacteria called Enterococcus faecalis has been shown to be passed from infected chickens to humans through the feces of chickens.
A study was done comparing the genetic structure of the bacteria in chickens to people that allowed chickens in their home.
They found that half of the women that allowed chickens inside their home had urinary tract infections!
“In many cases, the bacterium causing the infection was a clone of bacteria found in chickens.”ScienceNordic
Chickens that are allowed into a home will inevitably poop. It is through the chicken’s feces that humans pick up the Enterococcus faecalis bacteria. This bacteria makes its way into human intestines travels through the urethra and makes its way into the bladder where it becomes a urinary tract infection.
Salmonella, also called Salmonellosis, is a bacterial infection that affects the intestinal tract. It becomes contagious when you come into contact with the feces of infected chickens.
Salmonella can also be transmitted to humans if you eat undercooked chicken meat or eggs from a chicken with Salmonella. This is why it isn’t good to eat raw eggs.
Both humans and some animals carry salmonella bacteria in their gut. Chickens are frequently associated with spreading salmonella to humans.
Because chickens can become infected with salmonella and appear perfectly healthy, it is important as a chicken owner to take precautions when working around chickens.
People that are immunocompromised, are under the age of 5 or elderly are at increased risk of contracting salmonella if you come into contact with a chicken salmonella.
Most cases of Salmonella take about 1 week to recover.
|SYMPTOMS OF |
(COULD BE BLOODY)
Take precautions when cleaning out the chicken coop. For more information on what to wear when you are cleaning out your chicken coop, read my article How to Dress When Cleaning a Chicken Coop-5 Best Tips.
3. E. COLI
E. Coli is a bacterial infection too. All poultry have E. coli, Escherichia coli, in their gut. Just like Salmonella and Campylobacter, a chicken infected with E. coli can look completely healthy. In fact, most chickens infected with E. coli will not show any signs.
Many cases of E. coli go unreported because infected people usually recover in about 1 week.
(COULD BE BLOODY)
Campylobacter is also a bacterial infection. Humans can get it from eating undercooked or raw chicken meat as well as eating something that may have come into contact with the infected meat.
Campylobacter can also be excreted when a hen lays an egg or in a chicken’s manure.
Just like with Salmonella, chickens infected with campylobacter may look perfectly healthy. Always wear protective gear such as masks, boots and gloves when cleaning up after your flock.
Symptoms of Campylobacter are similar to those of Salmonella and E. coli. Most people can recover in about a week. Severe cases may require antibiotics.
Occasionally Campylobacter can get into the bloodstream. This can be life threatening, requiring hospitalization.
Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection and it is caused by a fungus called histoplasma. Humans can become infected by breathing in tiny microscopic spores of chicken droppings in the air.
Not everyone that breathes in histoplasma will become infected. People that have compromised immune systems, may have more severe symptoms.
It can be as early as 3 days or as many as 17 days before a person that is infected with Histoplasmosis starts showing symptoms.
People that become infected with Histoplasmosis usually recover anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Some people, mostly immunocompromised, can develop into a chronic lung infection and also infect the brain and spinal column.
|SYMPTOMS OF |
6. AVIAN INFLUENZA-(BIRD FLU)
Avian Influenza, otherwise known as the Bird Flu, is another viral disease that can be spread from infected chickens to humans.
It is found in infected bird droppings and secretions from their eyes, nose and mouth. It is spread from coming into contact with infected chicken’s manure, eyes, nose or mouth secretions.
This virus can also be inhaled into the lungs by cleaning a chicken coop that contains feces from infected chickens and not wearing a mask or eye protection.
Common symptoms of Avian Influenza in Humans can range from very mild to severe and include the following:
|LOW GRADE FEVER|
7. EXOTIC NEWCASTLE DISEASE
Exotic Newcastle Disease is a para-myxo virus. It is highly contagious and seen in many different types of birds including:
- guinea fowl
This virus is spread by the eye, mouth and nose secretions and feces of infected birds. It can be spread to both healthy birds and humans too.
Humans usually will not come down with this virus. If they do become infected, the symptoms are that of a mild flu or it can instead show up as an eye infection (pink eye) that goes away without even needing treatment.
This virus can live on surfaces, such as chicken feathers, manure and poultry equipment for a several weeks if it is in a moist and warm environment.
Chickens that become infected may have many of the following symptoms:
EXOTIC NEWCASTLE DISEASE
|DROP IN EGG |
|THIN SHELLED EGGS|
|SWELLING AROUND |
EYES AND NECK TISSUES
Innate Chicken Behaviors
Innate chicken behaviors are acts that a chicken performs by instinct. Chickens that are raised indoors or spend most of their time indoors are being deprived of being able to carry out many of these necessary behaviors.
A chicken is not truly “happy” unless they are able to carry out these behaviors.
For more signs to look for to determine if your chickens are happy, read my article 9 Important Signs to Look For – Are Your Chickens Happy?
Chickens are born knowing how to peck and scratch the ground. Even newborn baby chicks will peck and scratch the ground just minutes after hatching!
NEED TO PECK AND
SCRATCH THE GROUND
|FORAGE FOR FOOD|
|SHARPEN THEIR BEAK|
|FILE THEIR NAILS|
|TO DIG A HOLE TO|
DUST BATHE IN
|TO COMMUNICATE WITH|
Dust Bathing in Groups
Chickens are very social by nature and enjoy dust bathing in groups. It isn’t uncommon to see groups of chickens taking a dust bath at the same time.
Dust bathing is the way that chickens clean themselves. It is the equivalent to us taking a shower.
This is how they rid themselves of any parasites.
Preening in Groups
Chickens like to do things with other chickens and this includes preening themselves. They will preen on their own, but definitely prefer to do it with other flock members.
On occasion, with very close flocks, you will even see chickens preening each other.
Roosting in Groups
Chickens like to roost close together, especially at night and when it is cold. If you look at chickens at night when they are roosting, you will notice that they are all touching each other.
They always will seek out the highest place to roost, for protection. This is how they help to keep each other warm and feel more protected.
How to Help Prevent Infection
|HOW TO HELP|
|WEAR PROTECTIVE GEAR:|
|DON’T WEAR COOP BOOTS|
|CHANGE CLOTHES AFTER|
|CLEAN COOP REGULARLY|
|WASH HANDS BEFORE AND|
AFTER BEING AROUND COOP
|DON’T KISS CHICKENS|
|DON’T LET CHICKENS IN|
|COOK MEAT AND EGGS|
|AVOID TOUCHING FACE|
WHEN CLEANING COOP
For detailed information on how to prevent getting sick if you are raising chickens, read my article, Can Cleaning a Chicken Coop Make You Sick? (9 Tips).
FAQ About Bringing Chickens Indoors
Can I bring an injured chicken indoors?
If you need to bring an injured chicken indoors where you can observe them, it is recommended that you house them in an area that is not in the main part of your home. Placing them in a “time out cage” or dog crate in a garage or shed works best.
Plan to make more frequent visits to check on them or set up a video surveillance camera so you can keep a better eye on them.
The idea is not to bring them into an enclosed area that you can potentially breathe in harmful dust particles from their bedding/feces that they stir up.
Can I keep baby chicks indoors?
During chicks first 6 weeks chicks need to be provided with warm temperatures in order to survive. It is best to set up a brooder box either in a garage or shed, not in the family home. If you must use your home, put them in a location that family members are not in as often, such as a laundry or spare room.
Daily cleaning of the brooder box is necessary to help keep the spreading of chicken poop dust particles throughout your home.
Usually the first week or two, chicks are tiny and do not stir up as much dust. From 2 weeks and on, they are a lot more active, trying to fly, dust bathing and running around.
For more information on how to raise baby chicks the first 6 weeks, read my article 6 Week Guide – How to Raise Healthy Baby Chicks.
Is it safe to sleep with chickens?
It is not ever safe to sleep with chickens. Firstly, you can roll over and squish them in your sleep. More importantly, chickens can look healthy, but carry many different diseases that can be passed to humans. Lastly, chickens are the most happy, roosting with other chickens.
Can I let my chicken in the house with a diaper on?
It is not recommended to let your chicken in your home, even with a diaper on. Healthy looking chickens can carry harmful diseases that can be passed on to humans.
Chickens dust bathe, peck and scratch the ground that is covered in chicken droppings. When they walk on the floor of your home, they will be spreading these germs all over the floor.
These germs are easily passed on to a crawling baby or a child playing with their toys on the floor.
Conclusion: 7 Proven Dangers of Keeping Chickens in Your House
Keeping pet chickens in the house is exposing you to many different illnesses. Most of the time, a chicken will not show any symptoms of illness, but can pass it on to humans.
Chickens are very social animals and are the most happy being able to carry out innate chicken behaviors with other flock members.
It’s easy to form strong bonds with your chickens, but it is best to allow chickens to live in an environment that better suits their needs.