CDC says no: Should you kiss chicks?

I’m glad my soundbite about kissing chicks has now been appropriated by U.S. media.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhatever works to stop the spread of Salmonella.

“We do not recommend snuggling or kissing the birds or touching them to your mouth,” says Megin Nichols, a veterinarian with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “because that is certainly one way people become infected with salmonella.”

Over the past 10 years there’s been a boom in backyard poultry in the U.S. And while the CDC may view chickens as potential vectors of disease, a growing clutch of chicken owners views them as family pets.

State-sponsored jazz, otherwise known as national Public Radio, reports on the Mattkes, who live in a tidy suburban house on a quarter-acre lot on the outskirts of Washington, D.C.

“This is my favorite, Caledonia,” Lynette Mattke says as she holds a sturdy, black and white Barred Rock hen. “I think she’s the prettiest, too.”

In clear defiance of the new CDC guidance issued this month against chicken/human cuddling, Caledonia is a snuggler.

Neighborhood kids of all ages come over to see the chickens and help collect the eggs. Some of the kids like to swing with the birds on the swing set. The Mattkes even put out a “swimming pool” — a small pan of water for the hens to wade in during the summer.

Mattke says the birds are a surprisingly calming presence. Sometimes if she needs a little “de-stress” time, she’ll bring a stool into the coop and sit with the hens. “They come. Caledonia will jump up in my lap. They make this peaceful farm noise. What’s better when you’re in the middle of a workday than to hear that?”

The CDC is arguing against this type of casual human/chicken fraternizing.

“While poultry do appear clean they do carry bacteria,” says CDC vet Nichols.

She also warns that backyard chicken owners should make sure their birds stay in the backyard and do not come into the house.