Backyard farming may be a means of survival for some, and a neighborhood status symbol for others, but now the trendy practice is being blamed for sickening hundreds with salmonella. Washington Post reports that the Center for Disease Control has determined that more than 80 percent of salmonella cases reported can be traced back to hatcheries that sell chicks directly to consumers for their kids' Easter baskets and/or their experiments in suburban coop-keeping.
The CDC’s investigation links more than 300 cases of salmonella across 43 states to a single mail-order hatchery. What’s more, they suspect that thousands more cases were probably never reported. Though none of the cases were fatal, dozens of victims were hospitalized with all sorts of nasty salmonella symptoms. (We'll spare you the details.)
And yet, with the interest in backyard farming showing few signs of letting up anytime soon, companies that sell mail-order chickens are seeing their sales skyrocket. While improvements are being made at hatcheries to stem outbreaks — only 29 cases were reported last year, but there were as many as 84 reported in previous years — the CDC is urging backyard farmers to keep chickens out of their homes, wash their hands after handling them, and never allow children under the age of 5 to touch them. And as a rule of thumb, exercise the same amount of caution with live chickens that you would with raw chicken.