Baby chicks are cute, but salmonella isn’t

Baby chicks may look adorable all nestled in Easter baskets this weekend, but bacteria could be hiding in those downy yellow feathers.

The little fuzz balls can carry salmonella, the germ we most often associate with eggs and undercooked poultry. Sorry Peeps, I feel like this gal writing about it today, but I think it’s worth spreading the word.


Baby chicks — as well as ducklings, goslings, and baby turkeys — may harbor the bacteria in their droppings and on their bodies. If you hold, cuddle or kiss the birds, or touch contaminated surfaces such as cages and water bowls, you can pick it up on your hands. Then touch your mouth or use your hands to eat, and salmonella can sneak its way into your body.

The U.S. CDC issues warnings about salmonella in the spring to coincide with Easter. While people come into greater contact with baby chicks, adult poultry also can carry the bacteria and both pose a potential risk anytime of year.

Young children are particularly at risk because their immune systems are still developing and they’re more likely to cuddle the baby birds and then put their fingers in their mouths. Health officials recommend that children younger than 5 don’t handle baby chicks at all.

Source: US. CDC

Source: US. CDC

Salmonella typically causes diarrhea, vomiting, fever and abdominal cramps. The illness can be severe and sometimes requires hospitalization.

A Cornish cross chick at Farmetta Farm in Morrill. Gabor Degre | BDN

A Cornish cross chick at Farmetta Farm in Morrill. Gabor Degre | BDN

Tips to stay safe

Health officials recommend that children:

• Do not put their hands in their mouths after touching chicks

• Do not kiss chicks on their beak or feathers

• Do not handle or clean cages or food containers

• Do not eat or drink near baby chicks

• Do not put their mouths on objects that have been near chicks or their cages


Children younger than 5 should not handle baby chicks, but if they do:

• Keep chicks out of the kitchen and other living areas

• Wash children’s hands thoroughly with running water and soap after contact with chicks

• Contact a health care provider or go to a clinic if the child experiences diarrhea or vomiting

Jackie Farwell

About Jackie Farwell

I'm the health editor for the Bangor Daily News, a Bangor native, a UMaine grad, and a weekend crossword warrior. I never get sick of writing about Maine people, geeking out over health care data, and finding new ways to help you stay well. I live in Gorham with my husband Nick and our hound dog Riley.