According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations, and 450 deaths in the United States every year.” Those are staggering numbers, and most of those salmonella infections come from food. While you can find the bacteria in foods such as beef, pork, fruit, sprouts, vegetables, and certain processed foods, we’re here to talk about salmonella in chickens and their eggs.
Simply put, salmonella is a bacteria that lives in the digestive tracts of animals and birds. It causes a foodborne illness called “salmonellosis.” Most of us actually already have salmonella bacteria in our stomachs or intestines, but thanks to our stomach acid and natural bodily functions, it usually passes through our systems unnoticed.
When you do get sick from salmonella, it’s typically because you have come into contact with an infected animal (or its feces) and don’t properly wash your hands. This can cause symptoms of fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping for about 4 to 7 days, though does not usually require medical treatment.
It’s also important to understand that you can get a salmonella infection when you don’t practice proper food safety and eat raw or undercooked food—like eggs or chicken, for example.
So now that you understand what salmonella is, you’re probably wondering how you can keep it out of your hatchery and away from your birds, right? At Freedom Ranger Hatchery, we’re all about practicing proper biosecurity and providing you with healthy birds, certified by the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP). It’s important to us that you understand what to look for in your birds to avoid salmonella infections in the future.
While there are several different strains of salmonella that your birds can become infected with, the most common are Salmonella enteritidis and Salmonella typhimurium, which are what cause salmonella infections in humans. Unfortunately, it is not the easiest type of infection to spot. In young birds, you can sometimes see symptoms like depression, poor growth, diarrhea, dehydration, and general weakness, but this could also be a sign of other bird illnesses and needs to be confirmed by a vet.
Even if your flock is not sick, they can still pass on the salmonella bacteria. As we mentioned earlier, most people already have small amounts of salmonella in their systems, and the bacteria can be “found in small concentrations nearly everywhere in the environment.” Since your birds are likely walking around and pecking in possibly contaminated areas, the likeliness that they are carriers of the bacteria greatly increases. And once your birds have it, they can vertically transmit it to their eggs, as well.
Having a clean environment for your flock is essential for keeping your birds healthy from a variety of diseases, and not just salmonella. Egg-laying hens—who are likely inside a coop more often than your broilers—may be at a higher risk for contracting salmonella. This is because of the usually warm environment in your chicken’s housing, as well as salmonella’s ability to survive within the same location.
When you have free-range birds with environmentally-friendly farming methods—as we do here at Freedom Ranger—you’re going to get higher-quality eggs from your birds. Also, practicing proper food safety when handling and cleaning your eggs will go a long way in keeping salmonella infections from spreading.
Another risk factor in the spread of salmonella is with your broiler chickens. You will need to practice strict biosecurity with your broilers to keep the chance of infection low. It’s advised that you minimize the birds’ exposure to other animals, birds, insects, and visitors, as well.
Even if your broilers appear healthy, the bacteria can still be on their bodies, in their cages, feed, and water supplies, or anywhere that the birds roam. The birds may not even be infected, but they can still transmit it to you or other birds if you’re not careful.
Like any disease, the first step to having healthy chickens and preventing salmonella infections is to avoid the bacteria in the first place. The prevention process starts with a healthy flock and vaccinating your birds before the bacteria can spread.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s also essential to ensure you have a solid biosecurity plan for your flock. Keep your birds’ environment clean and try to avoid any cross-contamination where possible. If your chickens are already showing signs of infection, have a vet take a look at them. There are antibacterial medications available to help treat salmonella.
When you purchase broilers or egg-layers from Freedom Ranger Hatchery, you know you’re getting NPIP-certified birds right from the start. We’re a poultry hatchery that believes in traditional, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly farming methods, and we allow our chickens to do what comes to them naturally.