Salmonella and you


8 Years
May 25, 2014
Salmonella and you

In simplest terms, we get this type of food poisoning from being unclean and eating small amounts of poo. It doesn't float in the air, we don't breath it in, we consume it with unwashed hands or non-cooked meat and dairy.

My name is Aaron Rosenzweig. I'm the father in a household of four humans and six chickens in Gaithersburg Maryland. Let this be your "go to" article when understanding food poisoning. I will cite various references to let you fully understand what is at stake. You decide.

"Salmonella" is a bacteria that lives in the intestines of birds and reptiles. Nobody really knows what it does or if it is beneficial but we do know that it's normal and causes no harm in the guts of the animal. Problems arise when the animal "goes to the bathroom" and we eat some of it. It's bad for the animals too if they consume it. The reason is that salmonella is ok in the intestines but it wreaks havoc in our stomach. That's right, in our stomach we get flu like symptoms and can sometimes die from complications.

"E. Coli" is a bacteria that lives in the intestines of humans, dogs, cats, and mammals. Everything we just said about Salmonella applies to E. Coli too. The only difference is that one lives in the guts of birds and the other humans. If we consume either Salmonella or E. Coli we will get sick with the same type of symptoms and issues. These bacteria belong in the intestines but not in the stomach.

Together, Salmonella and E. Coli are perhaps the most common ways we get "food poisoning"

Escherichia coli (E. coli) -> sickness within 1 to 8 days -> Beef contaminated with feces during slaughter. Spread mainly by undercooked ground beef. Other sources include unpasteurized milk and apple cider, alfalfa sprouts, and contaminated water.

Salmonella -> sickness within 1 to 3 days -> Raw or contaminated meat, poultry, milk or egg yolks. Survives inadequate cooking. Can be spread by knives, cutting surfaces or an infected food handler.


In simplest terms, we get this type of food poisoning from being unclean and eating small amounts of poo. It doesn't float in the air, we don't breath it in, we consume it with unwashed hands or non-cooked meat and dairy.

In a very real sense, dogs and chickens provide equal amounts of concern for transmission to humans. You generally shouldn't kiss your dog nor your chickens and you should wash your hands before and after playing with them. Do we all do this? No, but that's the facts. I tell my children not to kiss their chickens but I still catch them doing it anyway - they have never had food poisoning though there is always a risk.

If there are any setbacks for housing related to health for dogs, they should apply to chickens as well and vice versa. They are the same in their risk of infection. If a dog house can be within five feet of a neighbor's yard, the same should hold true for chicken coops.

Wild birds, lizards, turtles, all may carry food poisoning agents in their droppings and they defecate in everyone's backyard. The risk from consuming contaminated dirt in your backyard from a direct hit of a Cardinal is greater than water run-off from a neighbor who keeps chickens. Generally, it's just a bad idea to go around eating dirt and not washing your hands before eating.

The official stance from the CDC is clear. Wash your hands and use common sense, they don't imply large setbacks from neighbor's yards:

If anything, treating chickens like family will likely result in LESS chance of getting sick than if you buy eggs from the store in the event that you are unlucky and get a contaminated batch from your local food market. Chickens raised for food production almost always live in crowded dirty conditions where only a meticulous washing of the eggs can protect us:

Most of the world doesn't wash eggs. By not washing they don't need to be kept cold because the natural oily/waxy "bloom" is intact. Also, many countries vaccinate chickens to remove the possibility of Salmonella but that 25 cents per bird is more than American business wants to spend.

European eggs are not refrigerated, not washed, and end up sickening less people than here. The US is more effective at producing low cost eggs, cleans the poop off, and requires refrigeration. Yet in 2010, half a billion eggs were recalled after potentially being tainted with salmonella.

Certified humane eggs that you get from Whole Foods - the highest quality eggs you can buy is not high quality at all. Watching this video explains why the eggs must be washed and kept cold. It's cheaper than managing chickens in good health:

Many people can and do hug their chickens... just like they hug their dogs:

With all do respect to the CDC, I find the Canadian government pages much easier to follow, shorter but complete in their explanations, and accurate:

They very clearly answer -> Is Salmonella dangerous? Is it more dangerous for certain people? -> Most people who become ill from Salmonella bacteria will recover fully after a few days.

Avoiding Salmonella infection is really "common sense":

In perspective - dogs and cats are much more dangerous to humans because we are all mammals. Chickens have a healthy body temperature of 103 to 104 degrees F, that's a temperature at which humans are really ill. Birds are have an alien body chemistry when compared to mammals which is why very few diseases can be shared among us.

While I say dogs and cats are "more dangerous" - please understand that I see the risk as low so long as you give them heart worm medication which also kills roundworm which would otherwise cause blindness in humans. In poor locations with dogs and cats that do not receive this medication, it is the leading cause of blindness in humans. I want to be clear that birds and chickens have lower risk than dogs and cats.

"Heart worm medication" is much less alarming than "Blindness mitigation medication" isn't it? But that's exactly what you are doing for your family by medicating your dog or cat. I guess telling the truth would be bad for business. Go ahead and read the label of your heart worm medication and find that it also kills roundworm.

NIH points out that among our nation’s poor - dogs cause a high risk of blindness and other maladies in humans. Simply search for "roundworm" or "toxocariasis" in the following document and note that 30% of Black children in some communities suffer from this:

CDC shows keeping of dogs / cats are more of a risk than birds:

A) Twenty diseases humans can get from dogs:

B) Sixteen diseases humans can get from cats:

C) Six diseases humans can get from chickens:

D) Four diseases humans can get from birds:

If we are going to ban an animal in our community - the science shows that we banned the wrong animal. Dogs and cats pose a higher risk and should require larger setbacks than chickens. Not only can dogs and cats infect us through disease more readily, but they can also cause us physical harm with their teeth and claws. Nobody has ever been mauled to death by a chicken.

The Montgomery County Pet Equality Coalition calls for us to get real. Be honest. Let citizens have the freedom to decide what is food and what is a pet. Don't regulate our freedoms without a good reason. 100 foot setbacks for keeping chickens is not backed by science. 100 foot setbacks are not reasonable.

Aaron Rosenzweig
[email protected]
Thanks Ed,

This article can be used by anyone no matter where you live because it is a universal look at Salmonella and what it "really" means for us.

I've looked for something similar, that really looks at the issue head on, but to my knowledge this is the first example that compiles a list of references and takes a holistic view putting dangers in context.

If anyone knows of additional references or other similar articles, please list them here in this thread as well.

Right now, Montgomery County Maryland, classifies chicken coops as "aviaries" and as such requires 100 foot setbacks. The net result is that only the wealthiest people with large acreage can legally own chickens.

A reasonable setback should be the same for all pets. Whatever it is for dogs, allow chickens the same luxury. Whether that is 5 feet (the current rule for dogs in Montgomery County) or 15 feet it doesn't really matter... but 100 feet is just wrong.

A 100 foot setback is reasonable for birds that love to fly and are allowed to do so. When they come home they don't go into their aviary immediately and tend to leave droppings within a 100 foot radius. That would constitute a nuisance on your neighbor's cars and property. We're talking pigeons, etc. not chickens.

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom