How Do Chickens Get Salmonella


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I am quite sure everyone is pleased when their chickens are healthy. The burden that comes with diseases is unpredictable, and it is better to prevent than treat. Of course, to prevent a disease or an infection, you have to know how it happens. This article focuses on one of the most significant chicken infections, Salmonella.

Chickens Get Salmonella

How do chickens get salmonella?

The main route of transmission of salmonella in chickens is through the mouth. They can get infected when they eat contaminated food or drink contaminated water. Salmonella can also be transmitted through the navel and from chicken to eggs.

Turns out your chickens are not the only ones in danger when there’s a salmonella infection. Knowing this, we decided to thoroughly discuss how salmonella is transmitted. Read on, for there’s more to learn in the following paragraphs.

How Do Chickens Get Salmonella

Salmonella is a bacterial infection, it occurs in humans, and it occurs in animals too. One such group of animals that suffer from salmonella are chickens.

The thing about salmonella infections is that they are zoonotic. This means they can be transmitted from animals to man.

Salmonella bacterial infection

In humans, salmonella is transmitted through the mouth. If one eats an infected animal or contaminated food, or drinks contaminated water, they can get infected.

Chickens get salmonella the same way humans get it – through the oral route. This commonly occurs when they are fed infected feeds.

Besides the oral route, chickens can become infected with salmonella through their navel. Eggs can also become infected with salmonella even before their shells form.

Feed Contamination

Feeds derived from fish meals and oilseed meals carry a high risk of salmonella contamination. These raw materials provide conditions that allow salmonella to thrive.

Sick Chicken

So, it’s no surprise that they are more likely to give rise to contaminated feeds. But this does not mean they are the only raw materials that are susceptible to salmonella contamination.

Apart from the factor stated above, poor environmental conditions contribute to the contamination of chicken feed. A dusty and humid environment will favor salmonella growth on feeds.

An environment infested with pests that carry salmonella (such as cockroaches or rats) is also likely to have contaminated feed. These pests can run around contaminating your chickens’ feed, and this can cause a salmonella infection.

Chicken-To-Chicken Transmission

Chicken inside cage
Chicken inside cage

This type of transmission occurs in 2 ways: vertically and horizontally. Vertical transmission occurs when infected chickens pass the infection to their eggs.

Horizontal transmission occurs when an infected chicken comes in direct contact with a healthy chicken.

This means of transmission is not limited to direct contact between chickens. It can also occur when chickens come in contact with any other infected animal, even humans.

Contaminated Equipment

Equipment like trucks and hatcheries can facilitate salmonella transmission, especially when they are not cleaned regularly.

If a truck has been in contact with salmonella-contaminated feed, and it is not cleaned, it will hold back some of the bacteria. If it holds back some of the bacteria, every other uncontaminated feed placed in it may become contaminated.

The hatchery is another equipment that can promote salmonella transmission. The temperature, dust, and humidity in the hatchery make it a good salmonella reservoir.

Placing infected chicks/eggs in the hatchery will cause contamination. When it is contaminated, every other chick or egg placed in it will become infected. The infected chicks/eggs may also transmit the infection directly to healthy ones.

Feeding equipment can also spread salmonella. When infected chickens use feeding equipment, and they are not cleaned before healthy ones use it, the infection spreads.

Other Ways Chickens Get Salmonella

Apart from all we’ve talked about so far, chickens can also get salmonella from contaminated cages, litters, coops, and pests that carry the bacteria.

Can You Get Salmonella From Chicken Poop

Yes, you can get salmonella from chicken poop. If you do not wash your hands after coming in contact with their poop, you can contaminate your food and drink with those hands.

Chicken eating

When you contaminate your edibles and eat them, you get infected. You are at even higher risk of getting salmonella when you are on antacids or some other stomach ulcer medication.

Also, when you are older (about 65 years or more), you do not want to get salmonella. The symptoms are worse in geriatrics, and in immunosuppressed people.

How to Tell If Your Chickens Have Salmonella (Symptoms)

Not all chickens infected with salmonella will show symptoms. Those that do not show symptoms are called carriers. These carriers serve as a host for the bacteria as they keep spreading the infection.

In chickens that show symptoms, you will notice one or more of the following:

Chickens Salmonella Symptoms
  • Depression or dejection – an infected chicken may become withdrawn and less active than it usually is.
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration and thirst – these symptoms are consequences of diarrhea.
  • Unkempt plumage
  • Reduced appetite

These are just some of the symptoms you may notice in an infected chicken. Many other symptoms may appear when a chicken has salmonella. Whenever you suspect that your chicken might have salmonella, the best thing to do is to call a vet and get them tested.

According the CDC, you should never pro-actively administer antibiotics as this may lead to antibiotic resistance in your flock.

Do Baby Chickens Carry Salmonella

Yes, chicks carry salmonella, and they spread it too. Within a few hours of hatching, chicks can contaminate your hatchery and infect other chicks and eggs. They usually pass out a large amount of salmonella in their feces, and this is how they infect the others.

How to Treat Salmonella in Chickens

chicken injection vaccine

Salmonella can be treated by administering antibiotics to chickens. Of course, this is a job for the veterinarian. There are many antibiotic options, and the vet will make a decision based on certain factors.

Some of these factors are the strain of the salmonella and the sensitivity of the strain to different antibiotics. The safety of the antibiotics in your chickens is also another factor the vet may consider.

Vaccines

You may want to consider getting your chickens vaccinated. Vaccines help prevent and control salmonella infections. With vaccines, the chickens are unlikely to get infected, and you would not have to treat them in the first place.

Please note that the vaccines are not alternatives to treatment.

Can Dogs Get Salmonella From Eating Chicken Poop

dog and chicken

We’ve established that humans can get salmonella from contact with the poop of an infected chicken. In the same vein, when dogs eat poop from an infected chicken, they will get infected.

One way to prevent this is to keep your dogs away from your poultry farm. If they can’t get in or around the poultry, they can’t eat chicken poop.

How Do You Get Salmonella From Chickens

Already, we’ve mentioned that you can get salmonella when you come in contact with poop from an infected chicken. But this is not the only means of transmission.

You can get salmonella from eating undercooked chicken meat and eggs. Chickens carry salmonella in their feathers, beaks, and feet. Contact with any of these areas can lead to an infection with salmonella.

You may also get an infection from their litters, cages, feed, hatchery, or any other item they come in contact with.

Does Every Chicken Carry Salmonella

Chicken in the farm

There’s a possibility that every chicken carries salmonella in their intestines. But without carrying out tests, there is no way to truly verify this.

Earlier, we mentioned that some carriers of salmonella show no symptoms. This means a healthy chicken may or may not be carrying salmonella, and until it is tested, you wouldn’t know.

Prevention/Tips for Staying Safe

As much as possible, you want to avoid getting salmonella from your chickens or any other means at all. Salmonella can cause typhoid fever, paratyphoid fever, or salmonellosis. We are quite sure no one wants to come down with any of those diseases.

To prevent a salmonella infection, you should do the following:

  • Cook chicken meat, eggs, and other chicken products properly.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after coming in contact with chickens and other items in their environment.
  • Avoid kissing your pet chickens or any other pet you may have.
  • Clean your chickens’ equipment regularly. Clean the trucks, cages, and hatcheries, and change the litter.
  • Vaccinate your chickens, and ensure you invite the vet to check them regularly.
  • Keep your indoor pets away from the chickens.
  • Keep little children, old people, and people with suppressed immunity away from the chickens.
  • Isolate sick animals and their products from healthy ones.
  • Fumigate the chicken coop. This way, you can remove pests that can contaminate their food and water with salmonella.
  • Get your chicken feed from trusted sources.
  • You may also give your chicken probiotics as they have been shown to offer some benefits against salmonella.
Salmonella in eggs

Salmonella infections can be very expensive and deadly. There’s a lot to lose if an infection gets out of control. Although preventing the infection takes some work, it is more cost-effective than treatment. So, your priority should be to stop your chickens from getting infected in the first place.

Resources

April

April has owned and worked with domestic fowl including chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, and guineas since 1998. She has a B.S. in Agriculture from Cal Poly in Pomona, CA where she studied genetics, nutrition and reproduction.

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