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Considering Easter Chicks? Giving Baby Chickens as Gifts May Not Be a Good Idea!

Posted in Our Blog on March 30, 2024

Giving baby chickens as gifts may not be a good idea!

It’s that time of year again where words like “chick season” gets thrown around. Your local feed stores may be advertising these adorable fluff balls and even dyeing them pastel colors in hopes of attracting would-be future chicken tenders to make a purchase.

But for some, this novelty animal gift may grow up to be more than bargained for. Particularly for those planning to give them as gifts.

Chickens as Pets

A growing trend of chickens as pets has hit social media. From chicken swings to chicken strollers, and even chicken diapers so that your fluffy friend can join you inside. A brief search on Amazon brings thousands upon thousands of items to brighten your coop and enrich your pet chickens’ lives.

Some chickens can be very friendly. Especially if they are socialized early on. They can be curious, create hilarious antics, and provide hours of entertainment.

But taking on the responsibility of livestock animals isn’t something to do lightly.

A little common sense goes a long way if you are considering giving baby chickens as gifts.

Is There Space for Them?

Not everyone is lucky enough to have acreage or large yards to put a chicken coop. Even kept as pets, chickens have certain housing needs. They need a place to roost, a safe place to be at night, when young they need heat lamps, and while chickens can eat scraps, they will also need specialized food to meet their nutritional needs.

Is the Family Prepared?

Taking on a new pet can offer challenging hurdles. Especially when it is not an animal that people traditionally know a lot about. Sure, a cat or dog can certainly be a pet to prepare for as well. Chickens, on the other hand, require a bit of up-front education.

Are There Small Children in the Home?

Chickens can be fun for children and adults alike. But small children need a certain level of supervision around these animals. Proper handwashing practices and safety considerations must be made when small children interact with poultry animals and other livestock.

Chicken can carry certain bacteria and viruses harmful to humans. Small children are more likely to put their hands in their mouths or forget to wash their hands after handling or interacting with the animal, leaving the already more vulnerable body open to infection.

Backyard Poultry Linked to 2023 Salmonella Outbreak

Just last year a Salmonella outbreak linked to backyard poultry came to a close. While the cases were not exactly related (animals acquired from the same source), they all had backyard poultry in common.

Between January 1, 2023 and September 25, 2023 there were 1,072 illnesses resulting in 247 hospitalizations across 48 states and Puerto Rico linked to backyard poultry. The majority of those sickened reported recently purchasing or obtaining poultry. At least 16 hatcheries were involved. No common poultry supply was identified across all outbreaks.

1,072 illnesses and 247 hospitalization were linked to backyard chicken outbreaks in 2023. No common poultry supply was identified across all outbreaks.

In response to the outbreaks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state partners worked with hatcheries and stores selling live poultry to identify ways to reduce Salmonella germs in birds. Additionally, measures were taken to help educate new poultry owners on safe handling of birds.

Common Illnesses Associated with Backyard Chickens

Before giving chickens as gifts this Spring, consider the risks associated with contact with backyard chickens.

This multi-state outbreak investigation focused on Salmonella. However, there are other bacteria and viruses that can cause serious illness.

Bird Flu

Avian influenza, or bird flu, continues to be a risk in the United States. It is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses mutated to be infectious to birds and now humans.

Bird flu is spread through contact with virus-contaminated surfaces such as poultry coops and supplies.

In rare cases, people can become infected by touching an infected animal and then touching their own nose, eyes, or mouth.

While it is rare for avian flu to spread to people, children younger than 5 years old, adults 65 and older, and those with a weakened immune system are at higher risk of flu complications. Those who work closely with large numbers of birds (such as producers) are at higher risk of infection.

Most of the time birds with flu viruses show no signs of infection. Sometimes a decrease in egg production is the only indication. In other cases, the virus can be fatal, resulting in extremely high death rates in the flock.

In people, bird flu presents much like typical flu.

Common bird flu symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of appetite
  • Coughing
  • Red eyes
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Serious complications may result from bird flu. These include myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), myositis (inflammation of muscle tissues), and multi-organ failure (e.g., respiratory and kidney failure).


Campylobacteriosis is the illness associated with Campylobacter bacteria. It is often spread from animals, such as backyard chickens though the feces (poop) of an infected animal, contaminated food, or environment.

Most of the time people become infected after touching an animal or their poop, food, toys, habitats, or equipment used around these animals and then touching their mouth or eating.

People with a weakened immune system and those under 5 years old and over 65 years old are more likely to become infected after exposure and suffer more severe illness.

Most of the time chickens do not show signs of Campylobacter infection. Even without symptoms, infected poultry can still spread the bacteria to people.

Common campylobacteriosis symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea (often bloody)
  • Fever
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting

People often begin feeling sick around 2 to 5 days after exposure and illness generally lasts a week.

Escherichia coli

Escherichia coli, or E. coli for short, are naturally found in the environment and in the intestines of people and animals. Many strains of E. coli are found in the digestive system and do not cause illness in humans. However, certain strains can cause life-threatening illness and health complications.

People usually get sick from E. coli by contact with animals, poop of infected animals, contaminated food, and the environment. Infection can occur when people come in contact with the bacteria and do not wash their hands.

People over 65, under 5, and with a weakened immune system are more susceptible to illness after exposure.

Most of the time, chickens will show no signs of infection. People, on the other hand, can become seriously ill after exposure.

Common E. coli symptoms include:

  • Severe stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea (often bloody)
  • Vomiting

Some may go on to develop a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS. This is a type of kidney failure that requires hospitalization. Even with treatment, long-term damage may still occur.


Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by a fungus called Histoplasma capsulatum. It can be found in the environment where large amounts of bird or bat droppings are found.

People become sick by breathing in microscopic fungus in areas with bird or bat droppings.

Anyone can get histoplasmosis, however children under 5, adults over 55, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to experience severe illness.

Birds are not affected by the fungus.

Common histoplasmosis symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Body aches


Salmonellosis is the illness associated with Salmonella bacterial infection. Salmonella is associated with foodborne infection, however cases of salmonellosis associated with handling poultry are on the rise.

Children under 5, adults over 65, and those with a weakened immune system are more likely to experience serious illness.

Common salmonellosis symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Stomach cramps

Prevention is Key!

While discretion should be considered when giving chickens as gifts for Easter, a few prevention steps can make the difference between a happy memory and an unfortunate illness.


Anytime you touch a chicken, collect eggs, or handle any equipment used for poultry (including food and water containers), wash your hands.

Use soap and running water as soon as possible. If not immediately available, use hand sanitizer and wash your hands as soon as it is available. Adults should supervise handwashing for young children to ensure it is being done properly.

Don’t Eat or Drink Around Chickens

Do not eat or drink around chickens. Don’t allow chickens into the house, especially where food and drinks are stored, prepared, or served. Cross-contamination can cause serious illness.

Keep Things Separate

If possible, set aside a pair of shoes for use in the chicken environment. Keep those shoes outside of the house so that germs are not tracked in.

Clean food and water containers outside. Bringing those items inside the house leaves your home vulnerable to cross-contamination.

Don’t Cuddle or Kiss Chickens

While they may be cute and adorable. If you work with them regularly, they may even be social enough to want to be touched. However, kissing or cuddling with them and then touching your ace or mouth exposes you to harmful germs and can cause serious illness.

Skip the kisses and give them treats instead. They will love you for it!

Think it Through!

Giving chickens as gifts this spring may sound like a cute idea. Chickens as pets as opposed to livestock is a growing trend in the micro-homestead lifestyle. Who wouldn’t want a pet that poops breakfast. Just think it through. Especially if you are gifting an animal to a household you don’t live in.

Stay in Touch with Make Food Safe!

If you’d like to know more about food safety topics in the news, like “Considering Easter Chicks? Giving Baby Chickens as Gifts May Not Be a Good Idea!” check out the Make Food Safe Blog. We regularly update trending topics, foodborne infections in the news, recalls, and more! Stay tuned for quality information to help keep your family safe, while The Lange Law Firm, PLLC strives to Make Food Safe!

By: Heather Van Tassell (contributing writer, non-lawyer)