10 Health Precautions For Backyard Chicken Owners

Note: This page is for people who have a suppressed immune system, asthma, COPD or any condition that makes them especially susceptible to illnesses.
By CarolJ · Feb 17, 2012 · Updated Mar 27, 2012 · ·
  1. CarolJ
    10 Health Precautions for Backyard Chicken Owners

    Note: This page is for people who have a suppressed immune system, asthma, COPD or any condition that makes them especially susceptible to illnesses. A search of the BYC Forum or a Google search will help in obtaining further information about each of the illnesses and precautions mentioned below.

    In order to remain healthy around chickens, most people don’t need to do anything other than wash their hands after handling their chickens. However, there are many people who must be extra cautious because of suppressed immune systems, asthma, COPD or other conditions that make them more susceptible to illnesses that might be transmitted via chickens. Since one of my little granddaughters battled cancer (she’s doing very well now), I’ve studied about and now practice strict health precautions in caring for my small backyard flock.

    While it isn’t likely that you will contract an illness from your chickens, it is possible. Diseases such as Histoplasmosis, salmonella, farmer’s lung, bird flu and staph infections CAN be associated with being around chickens. So if someone in your household is susceptible to illnesses, the following guidelines will help to minimize your risks.

    Wash Hands. This is a good practice for preventing illnesses from any source. Whenever you’ve collected eggs, handled chickens, worked in your chicken coop or filled water bowls and feeders, always wash your hands with soap and water afterwards.


    Wear a face mask
    . Chickens create a tremendous amount of dust. That’s one of the reasons that ventilation is so important in a chicken coop. If your chicken coop is enclosed, wear a face mask whenever you work inside it – whether it’s filling feeders and waterers or cleaning. For me, the ear-loop masks are the easiest to use. I found some on sale at my local grocery store and bought several boxes. I keep a box at the entrance to my chicken coop. Whenever I enter the coop to work, I put on a face mask. If I’m just gathering eggs quickly, I usually don’t bother since I’ll only be in there for a few seconds. However, if you are especially susceptible to lung issues, wearing a mask every time would help.

    Mist coop and roost areas with water. A VERY light mist of water will help to decrease the amount of dust. You don’t want the materials (shavings, straw, etc.) to be wet, though. Wet shavings/straw would only help bacteria grow! A light mist is all that is needed. Some people like to add bleach or Oxine to the water to help cut down on bacteria. If you use bleach, Oxine or other products, be sure to follow the directions on the package carefully to keep the proportions of the solution safe for your chickens.

    Keep the coop clean. If you have a “poop board” under the roosting area, be sure and keep the droppings cleaned up. Putting dry sand under the roosts make it fairly simple to scoop up the poop frequently to keep down odor and bacteria. You might want to research the “deep litter method” also for managing your coop. I use the deep litter method for the coop floor, and I use sand for the poop boards. Find out what method works best for you and makes it easiest for you to keep your coop clean.

    Change into clean clothing after working in the chicken coop. After working in the chicken coop, there is usually dust and other unwanted substances on your clothing. Have a clean set of clothes ready for afterwards, and wash dirty clothes as soon as possible.

    Observe your flock. Whenever you’re around your flock, pay attention to how they look and what they’re doing. If there is anything unusual going on, check it out. If a bird appears sick, isolate it from the rest of the flock until you can determine what is wrong and take measures to correct it. In caring for animals of any kind, a watchful eye is vital.

    Have a pair of “chicken coop” shoes. I keep a pair of slip-on rubber shoes by the backdoor. Anytime I go out to the chicken coop, I slip off the shoes I’m wearing and put on those shoes. When I return to the house, I switch back. This cuts down on germs being tracked into the home. Slip-on shoes makes this much easier.

    Closely supervise children around chickens. Never leave children unsupervised around baby chicks or older chickens. There are immediate physical dangers such as an aggressive rooster who sees a small child as a challenge. Health-wise, children frequently put their hands in their mouths. Help them wash their hands thoroughly after handling chickens or eggs.

    Wash eggs. There is a lot of disagreement both about the need to wash eggs and the need to refrigerate eggs. You will have to decide what you’re comfortable with. Because of my family’s need for extra precautions, I wash all the eggs I gather. As soon as I bring the basket of eggs inside, I wash the eggs gently with either an organic egg cleaner or a mild solution of dish soap. Use very warm water and don’t immerse the eggs in the water. Then rinse them well. After rinsing, pat them dry and place them in the refrigerator. Although washing eggs might remove the “bloom” (the natural protectant that covers the shell) we use our eggs up quickly. So that isn’t an issue for us.

    Practice biosecurity. Biosecurity is basically a way to keep disease away from your flock and other people's flocks. Part of practicing biosecurity is to keep your chickens away from visitors and other birds, keep shoes, tools and equipment clean, don’t share tools and equipment with other chicken owners, observe your chickens carefully to watch for early signs of illness and report any signs of disease or unexpected deaths. When the chickens in your flock are healthy, there is much less risk of you becoming sick.

    Chickens can be an amazing resource for food and entertainment, and keeping chickens is an effective step towards self-sufficiency. With just a few precautions, even people with suppressed immune systems and other health issues can enjoy the benefits of a backyard flock.

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Recent User Reviews

  1. The Farmers' Daughter
    "Helpful info"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Sep 2, 2018
    Good practice in general, not just for breathing and immune system issues.
  2. CCUK
    "Good article"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Jul 29, 2018
    Good biosecurity and cleanliness are key to remaining healthy around your flock.
  3. ronott1
    "Immune suppressed poultry owners"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Jul 22, 2018
    Read if you are immune supressed


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  1. Carol Freeman
    Really good advice thanks for all the information.
  2. karenp65
  3. karenp65
    I'm glad I read this article. I'm a farm girl but never had chickens so I'm def goin to leave my CHICKEN SHOES OUTSIDE! Great idea! I also like the suggestion of misting the coop. I keep mine very clean but dust is a problem. Thank you for the advice!! Chicken flock owner from Cali!
  4. CarolJ
    revmichael - sorry for the late response. I keep an organic egg wash mixture in a spray bottle. I can then spray one egg - or a dozen eggs and wash under warm running water. Quick spray - rinse - dry. I keep the spray bottle right next to the sink. It's the easiest way to wash eggs that I've found.
  5. cheeperchick
    Very informative! Any recommendations on handling chicks/raising chickens while pregnant other than washing hands?
  6. Chicken Steve
    Yes Thanks Much, being ill and concerned about my chickens health as well as mine I'm thankful for the information, and will start putting the practices to work for every ones health.
  7. Nutcase
    Good stuff! I can certainly relate to it since I'm prone to rhinitis among other things.
  8. MaPa26
    Thank you for highlighting this article. Having a number of health issues, and two granddaughters who love our chickens, it is good to be aware of or reminded of things that are common sense precautions that can help us stay healthy and still enjoy our hobby. I follow most of these suggestions religiously and some I could improve on. Great article!
  9. revmichael
    I am immune compromised and this is a great article - I hadn't thought of boots when being around them - when cleaning their coop I always use rubber gloves as well as a face mask AND wear my glasses or goggles to help keep eyes clean as well. I only have 4 girls so when I gather the eggs I always wash my hands afterwards with soap and water or with hand sanitizer - I keep some all around so anytime I do anything with the girls I wash my hands. They are in an enclosed run but LOVE to scratch what ever is in the run around and it ends up outside the run area - so guess some of their droppings could be in there as well - hadn't thought of that - so I'll be wearing gloves and a mask when cleaning that up as well and that's why the boots too then.

    As for cleaning the eggs - I decided that since the eggs are not dirty when I collect them that I'd just put them in the refrigerator and wash them as needed. I've been eating the eggs now for about a month with no issues. I figured I'd keep the bloom on and wash in warm water before using them. I am actually giving away some eggs, can't eat them fast enough and don't want a huge pile stocking up.

    If I decide to start to wash them before putting in the refrigerator - what can I use for 1-3 eggs at a time that would clean off any virus, bacteria or germs?
  10. SillyChicken
    I would advise against misting the coop area during the winter months if you live in a cold climate.. this will cause excessive moisture in the coop which could cause frostbite on your birds feet and combs.
  11. Dee Dee 2
    Very good advise ! Re: the boot, shoe thing for visitors. If you don't have the OR booties or exrtra shoes or boots for visitors a plactic bag with a rubber band holding it is place works in a pinch. If you have a pair of boots you must wear that have a hole or leak put the plastic bags on your feet then into the boots. Speaking of boots ~~~ I guess it is OK to say this, I wear "MUCK BOOTS" "SCRUBS" that is the brand and style. Available on line, google MUCK BOOT CO. For me the SCRUBS are the best style. Some of the others are too heavy. I 'live' in my Scrubs, they are so easy to get off and on, warm in the winter, cool in the summer. They are a bit pricey but well worth the cost. Beat the heck out of those hard rubber 'farm boots'.
  12. countrydream7
    nice info thanks
  13. kkidsmom
    Great article. Shoe covers sounds like a great idea. Also might suggest that you keep the masks outside the coop; I wasn't certain if that is what you meant. But if someone were to keep them inside, the dust would penetrate the box of masks as well.
  14. MamacatPatch
    Good information! My biggest issues are keeping the coop floor from piling up with poo, keeping it ventilated in winter and avoiding breathing in 'whatever' is in the air in there! I've found cotton masks but I am going to buy a cloth washable mask I found on amazon. Instead of bleach, I'd spray vinegar. It's healthy for you and the birds and disinfects everything. Wonder if cat liter would work under the roost? Our newest girls roost all over and we have so much poo in the coop it'll take a major cleaning and I'll most likely be the one who ends up doing it! Need to investigate the 'deep litter method'!
  15. Tacampbell1973
    Thank you for your advice. I am a person with a suppressed immune system but didn;t know who to ask aside from doctor who really doesn;t know a lot about animals. This article answered many of my questions and will help me to practice a more healthy husbandry routine. Thank you again.
  16. Homestead girl
    We had a big BBQ with about 30 people here at the house. Everyone wanted to go in and see the chickens. So I made my guests tie plastic grocery bags around their shoe's. and use hand sanitizer before going in my coop. I got a few funny looks about it but everyone complied to my request for their safety and my chickens.
  17. Strider
    Thanks for the great advice!
  18. happy call duck
    Thank's for this thread it's a good read as for myself i have had a kindeytransplant , as i'm new to keeping chickens i do make sure i keep every thing clean as much as as possible, Great advise thank you again.
  19. Marty1876
    This really is a great article! Thanks for writing it. :D
  20. happy call duck
    This is very helpfull and very good ponts, you have made as i'm a kidneytransplant fof 21 years. I will take a few more health precoresion Thanks for this very helpful peace of information. sorry if my spelling isn't that great.
  21. faith1st
    Thank you! I do practice this most of the time but I do have asthma and allergies and currently have bronchitis.
  22. ChickensAreSweet
    Very nice article! We have an immunocompromised person (cancer survivor) in the house and are very careful as well.
  23. galefrances
    Southernviking: Where do you get the disposable shoe covers? I've been using plastic grocery bags that I tie onto visitor's shoes. They can be a bit slippery, but they work. Great article by the way. Alot of good information that most people don't think about.
  24. Moosetails
    There are a few things that I haven't thought of. Thanks for the list.
  25. furbabymum
    I was hoping this would explain why I keep catching colds. Guess that's more to blame on having kids than chickens. ;)
  26. Mindychick
    Thanks for the advice. I'm a newbee chcken gal, and need all the help I can get. I have seperate tools for the coop cleaning, but didn' know I need a mask and a seperate set of shoes. Also where can I get egg wash you use to clean the eggs?
  27. BYC Project Manager
    Congratulations, CarolJ! Your article is featured on the homepage! Thank you for writing it and sharing it with our community.
  28. fancy40
    thanks some things i never thought about
  29. momgoose
    Thanks for the info! I never thought of keeping protective equipment (masks, gloves etc.) AT the coop but that is an excellent idea and I'm on it now!! I too wash my eggs but keep the unwashed eggs in a "dirty" egg carton, and washed eggs in a "clean" egg carton in the fridge. I wash them a dozen at a time as I need them. Thanks again for the insight! Love this site!
  30. bacondiva
    Thanks for all the great information. My husband is end stage renal, so I am really going through the hand sanitizer!
  31. Dee Dee 2
    really enjoyed the article and learned a lot. I am new to ALL of this but thought of another visitor shoe cover,
    plastic shopping bags and a rubber band.
  32. Maisah
    Loved it... TY!
  33. Janebo
    Agreed, great advise! I do have outside shoes which I use when working around my chickens etc. etc. They always stay outside. Also wear gloves at all times and always wash hands before entering my house.
  34. FowlmouthChick
    Great source of info for keeping the flock healthy. This site has just been the best for all sorts of info.
  35. Coffeemama7
    Wow! We do farm tours, sometimes with challenged guests. This article will now be in our packet, to help those understand why we have some of the rules we do. Knowledge and understanding is power!
  36. CarolJ
    I saw some ear loop masks on Amazon that were even cheaper than the ones I found at the store.
  37. cmhavstad
    This is very helpful. I am immune comprised and have been looking for this information. Thank you so much
  38. Featherfarmer
    I like the ear loop masks you have but haven't found any around my place. I have the type you fit the strap around your head and they are not cheap. Plus they're a pain in the butt to use. But it sure beats breathing in any dust. You have some great advice. All new chicken owners need to learn from your example. I don't know how many times people come out here and they want to poke around in the coops. They totally don't understand that if they have chickens the last thing they want to do is enter my yards (&bring in their germs)then go home and get close to their chickens(&give them my chicken germs).It's so important to keep everyone safe. I've been doing everything except the spray misting. I may have to try that now too. Thanks for a wonderful article. Hopefully it will teach newbiens how to keep safe and healthy!!!!!
  39. Summer98
    Good article; now I know I have a lot of changes to make.
  40. Suzie
    I have a compromised immune system as the drugs for my Rheumatoid Arthritis lower my immunity to fight off any minor infection - I will say that I have had Tetanos injections which are essential here in France working with animals - any scratch or cut results in the healing process being anything form 2-4 weeks.... this article highlights the importance of best practice and should be commended for bringing these to our attention. Thank you so much!
  41. Indio-Hens
    Good Tips, Thank you.
  42. OneReallyBigDog
    Fantastic information and glad to learn BEFORE I could have had issues. Now I can be overly protective for my health and theirs (chickens)
    Kudos for always suppling great information/stories
  43. lindsay297
    I am new to this game and even though I did alot of research before getting my girls I really like this article. Alot of great information even for those who dont have health issues. My kids and I have outdoor shoes and we use them all the time. The mask is a good idea as well I am going to have to get some before the winter when the girls will be inside more often. Thanks for the info!!
  44. Chicks Galore3
    Wow. Thanks for this! My brother has asthma, and I might have problems with the immune system. (I had pnemonia, plus i don't eat right so i might be suseptible to illness ect.)
  45. Janebo
    Great article and one can never be over health wise... when it comes working with chickens in every way.
  46. jimmyp
    We use ordinary plastic grocery bags for east-to-tie-on boot covers and have a bunch(who doesn't) for visitors to use all over the farm.
  47. GoldenCometLady
    Great info. I too have lung problems. I plan on getting the masks. Thanks for all the good advise.
  48. tomdeggeater
    Good advice even for those of us who are not immune compromised.
    I think I'll have to make the cat start wiping his feet before coming in the house...
  49. nancypo
    I waa talking to a pulmonolgist today about my worsening asthma. He brought up "Bird Fancier's Lung", and said that some of these contaminants can tested for and found INSIDE people's home. I might suggest- change your clothes when you go inside and wash them right away, after being around your birds. One woman, he said, was so sick from this, (her home too) that she had to move out, but got better, over time, away from her birds. Have someone who's not impaired clean your coop for you, if possible. Protect your lungs, you only get one set :) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_fancier's_lung
  50. carmeldean
    Very helpful! Esp. the part about washing eggs. I was taught to wash the eggs when my family raised chickens as I was growing up. We always ate the eggs fairly quickly, so preserving them was not the issue. I think washing them is more sanitary. If I did keep them without washing, I'd definitely wash them before use. :-D Thanks!

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