WEATHERSFIELD TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WYTV) – As people become more interested in knowing where their food comes from, the trend of raising backyard chickens is growing. But if not done properly, it can be dangerous.

Raising chickens can be a rewarding experience and can have great benefits, such as access to fresh eggs. But chickens often carry germs such as salmonella and if you’re not careful, you can infect yourself or your family.

Lisa Bayus has eight backyard chickens at her home in Weathersfield Township. She just started raising them in March and is looking forward to the fresh eggs, but there is a lot of work and cleaning involved when it comes to chickens.

“Any bird can have salmonella, so I always make sure I wash my hands before I touched anything else,” Bayus said.

Salmonella germs can be on the bodies of chickens and that can get on the hands and clothing of people caring for the birds. Bayus is careful to set aside one pair of shoes that she only wears in the chicken coop to avoid tracking any bacteria back into the house.

It’s also important to keep the area where the chickens live clean. Feed and water containers need to be sanitized and thorough cleaning needs to be done every month.

The Centers for Disease Control says you shouldn’t let children under the age of 5 or older than 65 handle the birds or anyone with a weakened immune system.

Bayus said even with all the precautions taken to keep germs at bay, her biggest challenge is predators. She says raccoons, coyotes, foxes, and even the neighbor’s dog are all a concern.

Eric Barrett, OSU Extension Office educator, said keeping chickens in a secure enclosure is the best way to guarantee their safety

“Poultry can run around during the daylight hours. I don’t think they are going to have as many problems during that time, but the whole thing of the fox in hen house is definitely true,” Barrett said.

Some cities and townships have certain rules when it comes to having backyard chickens. The size of pen, type of animal and zoning all determine what is allowed. Always make sure you check with your local municipality about guidelines for farm animals.

Barrett also cautions live chicken buyers to beware when purchasing the birds, and make sure the vendor is reputable and that their flock is free of disease.

Proper fresh egg handling: (source: Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension Office)

Proper Egg Cleaning and Handling (Source: Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension)

1. Collect eggs in an easy to clean container like coated wire baskets or plastic egg flats. This will prevent stains from rusted metal and contamination from other materials which are difficult to clean and disinfect.

2. Do not stack eggs too high. If collecting in baskets do not stack eggs more than 5 layers deep. If using plastic flats do not stack more than 6 flats. If you stack eggs too deep you will increase breakage.

3. Never cool eggs rapidly before they are cleaned. The egg shell will contract and pull any dirt or bacteria on the surface deep into the pores when cooled. Try to keep the temperature relatively constant until they are washed.

4. Wash eggs as soon as you collect them. This helps limit the opportunity of contamination and loss of interior quality.

5. Wash eggs with water 10 degrees warmer than the egg. This will make the egg contents swell and push the dirt away from the pores of the egg. If you have extremely dirty eggs, a mild detergent approved for washing eggs can be used. Never let eggs sit in water. Once the temperature equalizes the egg can absorb contaminants out

of the water.

6. Cool and dry eggs quickly after washing. Store eggs, large end up, at 50-55°F and at 75% relative humidity. If eggs sit at room temperature (75°F) they can drop as much as one grade per day. If fertile eggs are kept at a temperature above 85°F for more than a few hours the germinal disc (embryo) can start to develop. If fertile eggs are kept above 85°F over two days the blood vessels of the embryo may become visible.

If eggs are stored properly in their own carton or other stable environment they should hold a quality of Grade A for at least four weeks.