Chickens, like all poultry and many other animals, have the potential of carrying bacteria that can cause illness in humans, and they can shed this bacteria in their droppings. While anyone can become ill from exposure to these germs, children, the elderly, and people with lower immune systems are particularly susceptible.
It is important to take precautions when being around or handling chickens. We should refrain from letting them in the house, kissing them, or holding them close to the face. Children should be carefully supervised around chickens and instructed not to put their hands near their faces if they have touched them or their surroundings. Everyone should carefully wash their hands with soap and water after being around chickens.
My grandchildren are fascinated with our chickens, and they like to go with me to the hen house to feed them and collect the eggs. It is a good learning experience for them, but I don't let them go into the hen house unsupervised. I collect the eggs myself and put them in a small basket for them to carry. I let them throw some feed onto the ground for the chickens to eat. As soon as we're done, we head straight to the house to wash our hands. It is a good idea to have a hand sanitizer dispenser attached to the hen house for immediate cleansing.
With the rise in popularity of backyard and hobby chicken raising, in rural and urban areas alike, it is just a good thing to be reminded of the potential health risks and important safety precautions to exercise with our fine feathered friends.
Maple Grove (this article) was featured in Your Chickens magazine, a UK/US publication.