How to know if your chickens have Salmonella

If you are into raising chickens in your backyard, taking proper care of your birds can be an overwhelming task. You will have to be very cautious in observing your birds since their condition may not be immediately visible.

There is, in fact, no concrete diagnosis if your hens are sick with salmonella infection. But, you can surely see that your hens are looking weak and lethargic which are a telltale sign that there is some problem. Along with that, you will see that your hens develop some purplish wattles and combs, their appetite has reduced drastically and they are drinking a lot more water than usual.

Along with that, you will see that your chickens will get diarrhoea which may be distinct white, yellow, or green in colour. You may also see swollen joints and swollen eyes that may even lead to blindness. Other symptoms include decreased egg production. However, the same symptoms may be common for other diseases in the chicken as well, so it is always better to visit a vet to confirm the diagnosis.

But, even if you are not aware of any of these systems, it just requires a little bit of common sense to figure out that there is something wrong with your chickens if they are being raised in the backyard. The problem occurs when you have a huge chicken farm and you are unable to figure out any differences amongst the flocks. It is therefore important to have certain checks in place to ensure that sickness in the birds is checked regularly.

So, How do I know if my Chickens have Salmonella? The answer is but simple – just be cautious and keep an eye on your chicken and if you find anything unusual get them checked by a vet at the earliest for early diagnosis and treatment plan.

Let us look at some other frequently asked questions around salmonella infection.

Does salmonella kill chickens?

Salmonella is basically a bacteria that stays in the gut of many farm animals and birds including chickens and as per an estimate, up to 67 per cent of the chickens purchased and consumed in the United States carry this bacteria. The problem occurs when this gut bacteria infects the chicken’s digestive and other system and makes it sick. If and when that happens, and if their sickness goes unnoticed it can become the cause of death amongst the chicken.

So, yes Salmonella infection can cause death in chickens. Having said that since this is a gut bacteria in them, and stays with them almost all their lives, it would not be that harmful most of the time. But if you raise chicken in your backyard or if you have a huge chicken farm, you have to be wary and check if your chicken is getting sick due to this disease and take precautions and corrective steps if needed.

Does all chicken poop have salmonella?

So, we already discussed that this bacteria is found in the gut of your chicken. In fact, it would also be there lingering in the feathers and the body of your birds. It is, therefore, an obvious fact that your chicken poop will also be having some or large amounts of it.

The simple reason being this bacteria stays right there in their intestinal tract and that will come out with their droppings. These germs will hence be everywhere around your chickens. They can be in the cage, in the coop, the dishes that you have kept for their food and water, hay or even the soil inside the coop or the area they roam in.

So, if you are handling them, chances are the germs will get onto your clothes, and the other equipment that you use to handle poultry even if the entire flock appears to be healthy and fine. If you have kids below 5 years of age in the household, they will be more prone to catch these bacteria as their immune systems are still in a developing phase. It is therefore advised to take all necessary precautions and stay very careful when handling poultry.

You will need to be extra cautious not to come in direct contact or exposure and if you need to you will need to wash your hands thoroughly with antiseptic solutions and other sanitizing solutions to get rid of any traces of the bacteria on your hands. If you have been working on the farm or in the backyard for your chickens the whole day it is always recommended to take a shower to wash away the germs.

Do free-range chickens get salmonella?

Many people assume that chickens grown in natural and organic environments are devoid of this bacteria since such chickens are raised in less crowded facilities and are given a proper organic diet. But these are merely perceptions and these perceptions are far from the truth.

Salmonella and chickens have a relationship that never dies. So, it doesn’t really matter what type of chicken-raising you do, your chickens are still susceptible to getting Salmonella along with many other germs. So, even if they are being raised through organic methods and are free-range chickens roaming out on the farm all day, they still will be carrying Salmonella. In fact, if they are out in the open they are more vulnerable to carrying and transmitting it to other carriers of the same that are out in the open too.

In a sample of 135 organically raised chickens that were tested from the randomly selected chicken range, about 65 per cent of them tested positive for Salmonella. So, the assumption with many consumers that organic chicken does not carry Salmonella is incorrect and consumers must be wary of Salmonella content in almost all kinds of chickens.

Can I get salmonella from my chickens?

This is one very frequently asked question that bothers almost all chicken keepers, especially when they know that no matter what they do, their chickens will carry Salmonella. If you are too much into handling your backyard chicken farm or work the whole day on your weekends sorting out your farm, chances are you will contract Salmonella. So, by all means, yes you can get Salmonella from your birds.

But the good news is, that the sickness goes away quickly. So what happens when you get Salmonella?

The symptoms of contracting Salmonella in humans include abdominal cramping, fever, diarrhoea, and even food poisoning. And this condition does not need any special care unless there are other immune system complications that you suffer from. So, usually, you will recover within 4 to 7 days on your own but since things may get uncomfortable without medication, doctors may put you on antibiotics. Generally, your condition will improve if you continue to rest and take loads of fluids and if it does not rely on the doctor’s advice.

Prevention is better than cure

Prevention is better than cure and it is therefore advised to make sure you take necessary preventive steps. Salmonella enters your body only through ingestion; that is it must enter your body through the mouth. And you can avoid that from happening by cleaning your hands and body thoroughly after handling chickens on your farm. Make sure that you do not consume uncooked eggs and chicken meat as having any chicken product uncooked means a direct intake of the bacteria.

Apart from that ensure that the coop and the cages of your chicken are thoroughly cleaned from time to time so that the germs do not keep on building on the accumulated poop and feather wastes on the surface. When you are harvesting the eggs make sure that poop or droppings of your chickens are not sticking to the eggs for that may make them a carrier of the germs.

Apart from that make sure that your chickens do not come in contact with any rats – rat poop is a major source of all the salmonella that your chicken can carry. Cleanliness is the key and ensures that everything pertaining to your farm or your backyard chicken raising space is cleaned from time to time to avoid the germs from sticking around everywhere.

Since children are more vulnerable to this bacteria, it is always advised that you are around your children if they are around your chickens so that they do not put their hands in their mouths after touching the birds. Get them to wash their hands after every play session around the backyard or on the farm.

How do you get rid of Salmonella in chickens?

We already saw how important the entire cleanliness thing is when it comes to the maintenance and the upkeep of chicken and preventing Salmonella. About two-thirds of all chickens will carry this bacteria no matter how hard we try to get rid of it. So, getting rid of these germs may not be completely possible. But you can at least get rid of the possibility of being infected by this bacteria and that comes back to square one and only one thing, i.e – Cleanliness.

So, how do you do it? You can first start by making sure that almost all your chicken raising equipment is washed thoroughly after every use. This equipment will include things like spades, feeders, dishes, incubators, nest boxes, etc are washed and cleaned regularly.

Then make sure that the housing of the chicken which includes coops, cages, etc are kept clean and the droppings in and around the cages are removed from time to time. If you provide your chickens with clean and good housing it would ensure that they do not get salmonella from the droppings if they don’t have it already.

Then the next thing to make sure of is to ensure that there is no overcrowding in the coops and the cages. Overcrowding or having too many birds in one cage will increase the risk of spreading germs from one to the entire flock. So. ensure that there is an appropriate number of birds in all the cages.

The next important thing is to ensure that the eggs that you are harvesting are washed thoroughly before you take them to your kitchen so that the Salmonella from your farm does not enter your house.

The last and the most important thing is to make sure you isolate the infected chickens from the rest of the flock and get them immediate medical attention before their condition worsens and the germs start affecting the entire flock.

Apart from the above, it is a good practice to keep your farm items on the farm itself and to not get them home unless they are thoroughly washed and cleaned.

Does cooking eggs kill Salmonella?

Almost all kinds of bacteria are known to be killed when exposed to high temperatures. And the same is true for Salmonella as well. If you cook the eggs to the extent that both the egg white and the yolk get solidified, the bacteria get killed. It is recommended not to give semi-cooked eggs to children below 5 years of age as the same may trigger Salmonella infection leading to food poisoning.

So, only hard-cooked eggs will kill the Salmonella in any of them and every other version of it – be it scrambled, soft-cooked, runny yolk type eggs, etc will still have some Salmonella in them since they are not fully cooked. If you are prone to food poisoning you better eat hard-cooked eggs to avoid any chances of getting sick due to it.

The conclusion

To conclude we can say that there are always a few traces of Salmonella in almost all types of chicken and poultry products. If you raise chickens in your backyard or own and handle a chicken farm you need to be extra cautious in handling your birds since there are high chances of humans getting sick from Salmonella infection.

Cleanliness is the main weapon against Salmonella and uses this comprehensive guide for all kinds of cleanliness tips to prevent and keep Salmonella at bay. Even if you cannot always get rid of it – you can always avoid it and use this piece for the way!