Pet Connection: The upside and downside to chicken ownership

About three years ago, my wife and I “happened” upon some chickens. A family friend had gotten caught up in the recent rage of urban chicken acquisition and had obtained six chickens. They had forgotten to obtain any housing for them, so we offered to help out and take three of the birds.

We read up on chicken husbandry, built a coop and drove over to bring home our new flock in cat carriers. Here’s the upside to chicken ownership:

Now, here’s the downside:

Chickens can carry salmonella and a few other bacterial baddies. These can do a number on your GI tract and really put a hurting on you if you’re very young, very old or have weakened immunity. If you get it, you’ll be hugging the commode for a few days, or worse. We constantly clean up after them, and even then I feel like we always have some poo lying about. Washing hands after handling them or the eggs is a must.

Here is some CDC information on safe home chicken ownership: Another great source of information and support is the community at Backyard Chickens: Egg handling is important, too. There is a healthy debate about washing the eggs: Some say it removes an invisible slime layer that keeps bacteria out, while some say to wash them. Since we eat them as soon as we collect them, we don’t wash our eggs (unless they are really dirty), but just wipe them off.

Here is a link to safe egg-handling information: The life of a chicken owner is easy, delicious and fun. It’s a great way to lessen your eco-footprint and teach your kids where their food comes from. But you don’t want to get halfway into it and say to yourself, “What the CLUCK were we thinking?” With a little prep, reading and precaution, you, too, can safely enjoy all the benefits of having your own flock!

The buzz

After a long process of trial and error, he came up with a design that covers Bazz from head to tail, including protective sneakers and a covered, cone-like headpiece. You might say it’s the bee’s knees. Getting Bazz to actually wear the gear took some time and training, but now he’s back on the job.

– Kim Campbell Thornton