Can You Get Sick from Taking Care of Chickens?

Raising chickens can be educational and fun, especially for chicken lovers. Chickens are lovely, and they give us loads of tasty eggs and quality white meat. As exciting and entertaining as it is to raise chickens, taking care of these birds can be risky.

Chickens carry dangerous diseases that make people ill. Some germs and bacteria your chicken carries can cause many illnesses, ranging from skin infections to chronic, life-threatening diseases.

Diseases Caused by Chickens to Humans

Although keeping chickens can be pretty fun, chicken raisers should know that chickens carry severe diseases that can cause human deaths. These are some diseases you are likely to contract from your chickens.

– Skin Infection

Chicken raisers are likely to get skin infections from their birds, especially when raising commercial chickens in overcrowded environments. Skin infection in chickens is common in birds living in unsanitary living conditions. Early signs of chickens with skin infections include having bloody spots and small pimples on their skins.

Chickens with skin infections also have large reddish or purple patches on their combs and wattles. Persons who contract skin infections from their chickens also show similar signs to those of their infected chickens.

For instance, you will notice some sores that appear like blisters on your skin if you get a skin infection from your chickens. You might also get some small pimples when handling birds with skin infections.

Other skin infection signs from chickens include swollen skin and yellowish crusts on the skin and lashes. Luckily, you can treat skin infections with topical antibiotics. You have to apply topical antibiotics on the affected skin areas.

You can also try oral antibiotics to cure the skin infection you got from your chickens. However, oral antibiotics are only suitable for treating lesser chronic skin infections. You will have to visit the hospital for intravenous antibiotics if the skin infection you are struggling with is resistant to either topical or oral antibiotics.

– Salmonella

Salmonella is a chronic bacteria condition that is highly transmissible from chickens to humans. The bacteria causing Salmonella live in human and animal intestines. The bacteria exit a chicken or human body through defecating or passing out stool. Everyone who handles chickens frequently is at risk of Salmonella.

Most people who get Salmonella from their sick chickens show many symptoms, depending on how severe the Salmonella they are having is. For instance, you might show symptoms such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, or fever when you get Salmonella from your chickens.

Symptoms of this disease in humans usually become apparent 6 hours after contact with infected chickens. Anyone can get Salmonella after contracting the bacterial infection from their sick fowl.

However, kids below five years and adults above 65 years are at the highest risk of getting Salmonella. Persons with weak immune systems are also at increased risk of getting Salmonella from their sick chickens.

You can use antibiotics if you think you have Salmonella from your chickens. Antibiotics are excellent treatment options for people with chronic Salmonella.

– Campylobacter

Campylobacter is a group of bacteria that make humans and animals sick with a condition known as campylobacteriosis. Campylobacter spread from sick chickens to humans by coming into contact with droppings from infected chickens.

You can also contract this bacterial infection from contaminated chicken feed. Chicken raisers can get Campylobacter if they fail to disinfect their hands after handling a sick chicken or its droppings, habitats, toys, and food. Chickens with Campylobacter rarely show any signs apart from diarrhea.

Signs of Campylobacter in people who get this infection from their chickens include fever, bloody diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Diarrhea may come along with vomiting and nausea. The symptoms of Campylobacter start between 2 and 5 days after infection. Symptoms may last for about a week.

Most people with Campylobacter recover from this bacterial infection without seeking treatment. However, severe cases of Campylobacter require antibiotic treatment. Continue taking more fluids if you have diarrhea because of Campylobacter.

– Influenza – A (H5N1)

Influenza,-A (H5N1), or bird flu, is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a group of viruses known as influenza. Humans get this disease from sick chickens. Humans can get this disease after handling birds carrying the viruses that cause this highly contagious respiratory disease.

You can get bird flu if you come into contact with infected chickens’ saliva, droppings, and nasal secretions. Humans can also get this disease from contacting poultry coops, virus-contaminated surfaces, and coop litter.

Humans who contract Influenza – A (H5N1) from infected chickens have most symptoms similar to those of infected chickens. For instance, some people with Influenza-A – A (H5N1) have signs of seasonal flu, such as loss of appetite, coughing, fatigue, and fever.

They also have other symptoms, such as abdominal pain, red eyes, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Those with chronic Influenza-A – A (H5N1) have severe flu complications, including heart inflammation and multi-organ failure. The most effective treatment for Influenza-A – A (H5N1) in humans is antiviral drugs.

– Escherichia Coli (E. Coli)

Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) is a group of contagious bacteria prevalent in foods and the environment. Humans and animals, including chickens, also carry Escherichia Coli (E. Coli). Some Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) can be harmless to chickens, but others are pretty chronic and can make humans sick.

Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) is usually spread from chickens to humans through fecal waste from infected chickens. You can also get Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) after contacting contaminated chicken feed.

Those who don’t wash their hands after handling their chickens are at high risk of Escherichia Coli (E. Coli). Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) lives in a chicken’s gut; thus, a chicken with this bacterial infection may not show any signs of illness.

However, sick chickens can spread Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) to humans even if they look clean and healthy. The symptoms of Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) in humans depend on the type of Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) they carry. Persons with Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) usually have severe bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps, and vomiting.

Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) symptoms start within 3 to 4 days after contracting the bacteria from sick chickens. Some people may experience severe symptoms after getting the bacteria from their chickens.

For example, some people may have kidney failure due to chronic Escherichia Coli (E. Coli). The most effective treatment for Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) in humans is antibiotics. You must take antibiotics for at least three days if you have Escherichia Coli (E. Coli).

– Histoplasmosis

Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection that is highly transmissible from chickens to humans. It is prevalent in places frequented by sick chickens. Histoplasmosis is also present in the soil containing large amounts of bats and chicken droppings.

Humans can get Histoplasmosis by inhaling the microscopic fungus in coops housing chickens carrying this condition. Birds with Histoplasmosis usually don’t show signs of sickness. They tend to be healthy and happy.

However, signs of Histoplasmosis are apparent in humans. For instance, those with this fungal infection show symptoms like fever, fatigue, headache, chills, body ache, and chest pain. You can treat Histoplasmosis by taking antifungal medications, such as Itraconazole.

The severity of Histoplasmosis determines how long a person will take to heal from this fungal infection. The duration of treatment can be between 3 months to a year. Some patients may require several antifungal medications to treat Histoplasmosis.

Being Safe Around Your Chickens

It feels nice to be around your chickens, especially if you have a sizable flourishing flock. As much as you feel good around your chickens, your birds could carry terrible diseases that could make you ill. So you must ensure you are safe around your chickens. The tips below will guide you on staying safe around your chickens.

– Don’t Eat and Drink Around Your Chickens

The environment around your chicken could be a haven for germs, fungus, and bacteria that can make you ill. Kindly refrain from eating or drinking around your chickens since some of these disease-causing organisms could find their way into your body, ultimately making you sick over time.

– Always Wash Your Hands

Handling chickens comes at a cost because some of your chickens could be potential disease carriers. Touching sick chicken is the easiest way to catch some highly transmissible chicken diseases. Therefore, wash your hands and disinfect them every time you handle your chickens, particularly if you suspect some could be carrying diseases.

– Change Your Clothes

Change your clothes immediately after visiting the chicken coop. Most disease-causing microorganisms attach themselves to the clothes we wear. Thus, you must change your clothes and wash them after leaving the cage or handling your chickens.

– Don’t Pet Them Too Much

It’s good to pet your chickens because petting helps you interact with your chickens and make them friendly toward you. However, excess petting can be disastrous because it can provide an opportunity for you to contract deadly diseases from your birds.

Avoid petting your chickens if there is a chicken disease outbreak and you aren’t sure whether some of your chickens could be harboring diseases.

– Handle the Eggs Safely

Chicken eggs can also be carriers of diseases that quickly spread from chickens to humans. So you should handle eggs safely, especially if your flock has sick hens. Clean the eggs before cooking. Moreover, cook eggs under high heat to kill disease-causing germs, pathogens, and bacteria.

Prevention of Illnesses is the Key

Preventing chicken diseases is key to ensuring such conditions don’t get anywhere close to humans. One of the preventive measures to embrace to avoid the spread of chicken diseases to humans is ensuring your chickens live in good sanitary conditions. Immunizing your chickens against chicken diseases will also help curb the spread of chicken diseases to humans.

Detecting Sick Chickens is Important

Detecting the sick birds in your flock is vital because it will help you seek treatment for the sick chickens. Early detection also ensures that chickens don’t spread the diseases they carry to humans. Furthermore, detecting sick chickens will help you isolate the ailing birds from the other chickens before they spread diseases to the entire flock.


Chickens are lovely birds. However, they can carry diseases that are easily transmissible to humans. It’s good to identify sick chickens and seek timely treatment for the birds because they might spread the disease to you and your family. Also, take preventive measures to ensure you don’t get sick from taking care of your chickens.

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

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