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This Easter, leave chicks on the farm

A fluffy yellow chick stands beside an egg shell on a bright blue background.

Resist the cute factor: Chicks aren't good gifts.

April 20, 2019—Few animals have a greater cuteness factor than fuzzy baby chicks at Easter. But if you're tempted to bring one into your home, here's some advice: Don't. Your good intentions for a special holiday gift may come home to roost.

Chickens grow up fast, and require specialized care that many families don't anticipate. (The same goes for bunnies, if you're thinking of a plan B.) But if that doesn't sway you, you should know that chicks—even ones that look perfectly healthy—may carry salmonella germs. Their droppings may also be contaminated. People who put their hands in or around their mouth after touching an infected chick (or anything the chick has touched) can become infected too.

Salmonella infections can cause diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and a fever. Some are life-threatening. In fact, since 2000, 76 poultry-related salmonella outbreaks in the U.S. have been linked to over 5,100 illnesses, 950 hospitalizations and exactly 7 deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

Young children are more likely to get seriously sick. That's because they often put their fingers into their mouths—and their immune systems are still developing.

If you do plan on raising backyard poultry, here's how you can protect yourself and your family:

  • Be sure everybody washes their hands with soap and water after touching the chickens or touching anything they touch.
  • Don't let chicks inside your home, especially in areas where you prepare or eat food. Keep them somewhere else.
  • Don't let children younger than 5 handle chickens or other live poultry. They should also be off-limits for anyone with a heightened risk of a serious infection, such as adults over 65 and people with weakened immune systems.
  • Tell older children not to kiss baby chicks or chickens and to wash their hands after they snuggle them.
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