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Health eTips is produced by the staff of the St. Charles County Department of Public Health. The department consists of three divisions - Environmental Health and Protection, Health Services and Humane Services - that provide a wide range of services focused on enhancing the well-being of this community.

If you have questions about the Department of Public Health or have suggestions on public health topics you'd like to see explored in this blog, please email us.

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Jul 10

Backyard Chickens

Posted on July 10, 2018 at 4:05 PM by Doug Bolnick


Raising chickens and other birds in backyard coops can be a great learning experience and provide outstanding sources for healthy nutrition.

Last month, the St. Charles County Council approved an ordinance that allows those in residentially zoned districts in unincorporated parts of the county to raise up to eight chickens on their property. The ordinance allows hens only — no roosters — and requires a coop with adequate space and storage capabilities. Residents may not sell their goods, or slaughter their hens. In addition to County law, please consult local municipal ordinances, as well as homeowner association covenants before opening a chicken coop.
backyard chicken

Caring for Chickens

Caring for live poultry can lead to health concerns, even if animals appear healthy. For example, a multi-state illness outbreak involving backyard poultry flocks has infected at least 124 people in 36 states this year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also notes that at least 70 illness outbreaks since 2000 have been linked to backyard poultry.

Chickens and other poultry can carry Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. Coli and other bacteria on their bodies and eggs and spread the germs to cages, coops, water bowls and other surrounding material. Caregivers can transfer the germs from shoes, gloves and clothes onto surfaces or to other people.

To prevent the spread of this infection when caring for chickens, follow these safe-handling recommendations:
  • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and clean water immediately after touching live poultry and any surfaces the animals may have touched.
  • Clean all cages, coops or living areas and equipment used outside the home. Do not bring them inside.
  • Do not allow live poultry into a home or in any areas where food or drink is prepared or stored.
  • Use separate shoes/boots whenever caring for live poultry and keep these outside. Change into clean footwear before going indoors.
  • Do not kiss or touch any part of the face to live poultry (including chicks) and wash hands thoroughly afterwards.
  • Do not allow children under 5 years of age to handle live animals without proper supervision.

Keeping Eggs Safe

Fresh eggs are a great source for nutrition and healthy meals, but these eggs can carry contaminants as well. Shells may become contaminated through the egg-laying process, by contacting bedding or through handling. Follow these safe-handling techniques when collecting, storing and preparing eggs:Eggs
  • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and clean water immediately after touching shell eggs, live poultry and any surfaces the animals may have touched.
  • Maintain a clean, living environment for the hens — clean nests, perches and other areas regularly.
  • Collect eggs from the nest regularly. Throw away any cracked eggs to avoid contamination.
  • Brush away dirt or debris from collected eggs. Do not wash eggs with soap and water, as water can allow bacteria to seep inside the shell.
  • Refrigerate eggs after collection and store in a clean environment.
  • When preparing, cook eggs thoroughly. Raw or undercooked eggs containing bacteria can cause serious illness.

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