How dangerous is Chicken Poop? Am I TOO Clean about it?

LindsayL

In the Brooder
Jan 26, 2020
11
13
20
We have had chickens for about 7-8 years now. At first I wasn't AS obsessed with how dangerous their poop can be. I washed my hands of course, but I would open the coop in the morning and hop right back in bed. My daughter was about 8 when we first got chickens and was old enough to know to wash too, so I never really worried about her handling them. However, ever since my son was little and going through a very stressful time in life, I have become SO consumed with their germs it's almost not fun having them. I Love our chickens so much, but I am VERY scared of their germs. I suit up like crazy and wear a mask just to feed them. Then I change out and shower right away even if I don't clean out the coop that day. I wear gloves and a mask just to collect eggs and I can't feel comfortable or un-stressed unless my husband at least changes clothes after entering the chicken area. Specific "chicken coop shoes" are worn in the coop area and surrounding area too of course, then changed before walking where it could croscontaminate the other walking areas. I wipe everything down after collecting eggs too. I clean the eggs by using a damp napkin, drying, then spraying the eggs with pure vinagar, drying, then refrigerating. I stll worry about the germs on the eggs then too. My crazy cleanliness drives my family nuts. I also clean out the coop every week, but my husband says it's wastful to do that. These may be silly questions, but I am I going overboard in precautions? Am I properly cleaning the eggs as to kill off any poo germs? Advice on if I'm doing too much, or informaion to ease my mind on this would be extremely helpful!
 

rosemarythyme

Free Ranging
Jul 3, 2016
6,257
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WA, Pac NW
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Are you going overboard? Yes, I think so. But if you look online or even ask friends for information/opinions you'll get all sorts of mixed messages on how safe/dangerous everything on the planet could be.

Some of your routines are reasonable and even advisable: washing your hands after handling chickens or chicken stuff, having "coop shoes", or wearing a mask while cleaning out the coop (some folks have respiratory issues due to the fine dust in there). Some of the other things are probably a bit much, like showering after feeding the birds, changing clothes after going to see the chickens.

I clean out my coop twice a year (which may or may not be possible in your set up). I even save the poop for composting for my vegetable garden. I put eggs straight from the nest box into the fridge and as I like my eggs lightly cooked, they're usually lightly poached, soft scrambled, or over easy/medium. I don't get sick from my own cooking, so being surrounded by chicken poop and unwashed eggs isn't hurting me, but I bet that sounds pretty terrifying to you. On that note, if the eggs themselves in particular are worrying you, I'd advise you to always cook them thoroughly so the heat kills off any pathogens, and eat them immediately after so no risk of bacteria compromising them. Don't eat deviled eggs that have been carted to a picnic and sitting around in the hot sun for hours!

It also sounds like whatever went on with your son triggered your germaphobia. I have some really specific germ fears of my own (like I don't like touching food so I often wear gloves to do food prep, and even wear gloves to eat finger foods just to avoid touching it) so in some ways I "get it," but at the same time if I do have to touch food I just wash my hands afterwards so it's not really a huge deal.

That said, if you really are finding this whole sitaution stressful, maybe you need to talk it out with your husband and decide if having a backyard flock is really worth it. Because if you don't enjoy it or worse, fear it, it's just a miserable way to live.
 

LindsayL

In the Brooder
Jan 26, 2020
11
13
20
Thank you so much for your honesty and telling me about your phobia! It helped me feel better too, knowing I'm not alone in germ phobias. Yes having my son did trigger this phobia because the person I was living with when he was 2-3 years old, would touch the eggs or crack them right on the counter, and then not wash their hands, then touch everyitning in the house. Including kitchen knobs my son could easily touch and then put his hands in his mouth before I would even know what happened. Then the person would get angry that I would wipe everything down with a cleaning wipe. That is when my fear of the eggs and chickens came in. I was fine before that. While I have gotten better, the fear is still there and if someone doesn't clean up to "my standards" the fear re-grows and I am a giant stress ball until things are "clean again". Logically I know that's not right of me, so that's why I posted this too :) Thank you so much again for your advice :)
 

rosemarythyme

Free Ranging
Jul 3, 2016
6,257
11,663
642
WA, Pac NW
My Coop
My Coop
I know that feeling - we technically live in my in-law's former vacation home, so back when they would stay here on long visits I would constantly freak out that their kitchen standards didn't match mine (one time I found dried out mashed potato stuck to the cabinets, the wall, the baseboards ... how does anyone do that?!), and it made their visits stressful and I'd go on kitchen cleaning frenzies after they left. But once they decided to permanently move to our area (so they were no longer staying over at this house) that paranoia went away for the most part, though I admit I still wipe down the table and chairs and wash all table linens immediately after I host dinner, haha.

We have a pretty simple rule here: if you do anything chicken related, wash your hands. If we handle their food, go into the run, pick up an egg, we wash with soap and water. Handwashing (and not going inside the house with your chicken shoes) really should be enough to keep chicken germs out of the house. Your daughter is old enough to know to do that but if your son is still little he might need more supervision or reminders - as he gets older he'll learn to stick to that too.

As far as eggs, the bloom on the outside of an unwashed egg is nature's own way of keeping bacteria out of the egg itself, and is very effective. But if you do get a dirty egg it doesn't hurt to wash it in lukewarm water (or even scrubbed with a brush reserved for such a use) and then I would just put it in the front of the line so it gets used up next.

One possible thing you could try adding is a bottle of antibacterial gel somewhere between the chicken area and the house (let's say on the porch or deck). It's not a substitute for washing with soap and water, but it at least adds an extra level of de-germing before you or your family goes inside to order to wash up properly.
 

gtaus

Crowing
Mar 29, 2019
1,691
5,512
377
Northern Minnesota
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My Coop
FWIW, I see lots of people becoming germaphobes. The most effective way to protect yourself and others is good handwashing with plain soap and water. It sounds to me that you have worked yourself up into a frenzy and that is/will affect your enjoyment of having chickens.

I think it's important to wash your hands after caring for your chickens. If your son goes with you, wash your hands together so he knows this is just routine. I don't think gloves are needed for egg collecting, but usually I wear work gloves anyway. At any rate, I always wash my hands after taking off my work gloves.

I have tall rubber boots that I use in the coop when cleaning, and they can be hosed off afterwards if needed. My work boots are taken off before I go into the house.

Unless I'm rolling in the deep litter, I don't bother changing clothes from routine chores with my chickens. If I soil my clothes, yes, then they come off and I'll take another shower before I put on clean clothes.

I use a deep litter of wood chips in my coop, so chicken dust is minimized and I don't need to wear a dust mask. If you have so much chicken dust in the air in your coop that you feel you need a dust mask, then I would suggest considering using a different type of litter to reduce the dust. That much dust in the air would probably not be good for your chickens either, and I doubt they wear masks.

With my deep litter wood chips, my goal is to only clean out the coop twice a year. Once late in the fall before winter, and then again in the spring after the snow melts. The theory in deep litter method is that beneficial microbes help to protect the chickens from disease. So you don't want to clean out and kill the good microbes every week.

Eggs from the chicken have the bloom on them and that keeps the bacteria from getting into the egg. If you wash the eggs, you are not really doing the eggs any favor. Yes, if I get a soiled egg, then I will wash it off with a disposable paper towel and put it into the refrigerator for use in the next day or so. Otherwise, my clean fresh unwashed eggs do just fine on my egg skelter on the kitchen counter. Washed eggs must be refrigerated.

I don't do anything different in handling my unwashed eggs that I do not normally do with all my food prep. That is, I always wash my hands before handling food and again after I am done handling food. Depending on the food, I wash my hands in between tasks, especially if handling raw meats. I wash my hands a lot, but don't consider that a problem.

So, where does that put my in the germaphobe scale? Probably above some people but evidently well below your concerns. I too think you might be excessively concerned about some issues and more importantly, it is affecting the joy you used to have in raising chickens. It also seems to be affecting your family, and in the end, if raising chickens puts that much stress on you and your family, then maybe it's just not worth it. I truly believe that you could dial back some of your concerns and you and your family would still be protected. Hope that helps.
 

LindsayL

In the Brooder
Jan 26, 2020
11
13
20
I wear the mask more becuase I don't want to inhale any chicken poo germs when "dusting up" the bedding during cleaning. We use pine shavings and there isn't a ton of dust, but for me any is a lot haha. I do miss the times I didn't mind going into their coop area and didn't think so much about it. I do love them very much, cried all day when one was killed by a raccoon and they are very interesting to just watch; it's just their poo germs that scare me the most. As I heard it's REALLY bad. Like one step down from mouse poop bad. I try to think rationally when it comes to the chickens, it's just hard sometimes. Once anxiety kicks in on something, it's really hard to have it go away :/
 

cluckmecoop7

Free Ranging
Jan 4, 2019
3,516
12,645
607
North East USA
Hello @LindsayL,

All my family members are germaphobes. But, I'm not very much a germaphobe with my chickens. They are my pets. Do people always wash their hands after petting their dog or cat? No. Well, yes.... chickens are different from dogs and cats, but they are not THAT bad. (As people think.) :rolleyes: I do recommend washing your hands right after handling chickens or their equipment, though.

Even house cats can give you a terrible disease... and they LIVE with you!!! in your house, etc. Yes, I think it's a smart idea to wear a mask during coop cleaning.... but changing your close, taking a shower, and wearing a mask just to visit them or collect eggs is going a little too far. (For me, personally.) Think of them as a dog. But, It's perfectly fine to be careful (just not that careful ;)) around the chickens..... and I understand how nervous you would be with a little boy.
- Clucky
 

TwoShepherds

Crowing
Apr 4, 2019
513
2,752
287
Southeast TN
I take a few precautions: I wash my hands after touching the chickens or items in their enviornment (and my kids' hands if they interact with the chickens). I have special boots that I only wear in the coop (and that stay outside). I rinse my eggs with warm water and store them in the fridge (but not necessarily b/c I'm worried about germs). If an egg is soiled I'll wash it with a bit of soap and water.

I don't change/wash my clothes or shower unless I get dirty. I also don't use a mask when I clean the coop, but I probably should. I partially clean the coop every week or maybe two weeks, and it usually doesn't seem all that dirty or smelly when I do (but that could vary depending on the size of one's coop and the number of chickens). I started a compost pile last summer and like to add the droppings to it each week.

I'm aware of germs, and I try to take a few precautions that seem sensible, but I don't worry all that much.

My kids and I get a ton of enjoyment out of our little flock. I don't have any reference links to post, but I know I have read that rural children who have grown up exposed to animals have better immune systems. I don't know if that is proven or not, but I hope it is true. :)
 
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