Despite years of warnings, 2020 saw more backyard poultry-related illnesses than any previous year.

By Mike Pomranz
May 21, 2021
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Some lessons you only need to learn once. Burn your hand on the stove and you don't touch it again. Other pieces of advice need to be repeatedly drilled into people's heads. Maybe they think the gains outweigh the risk. Maybe they don't trust the messenger. Or maybe their backyard chickens are just so darn cute they can't resist showing their affection with snuggles and kisses. But seriously, for your own health, maybe consider letting your chickens just go about their business.

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—which, for the record, also has much bigger fish to fry thanks to that whole global pandemic thing—issued an investigation notice on a salmonella outbreak linked to backyard poultry. And, once again, the government agency had to explicitly stress, "Don't kiss or snuggle backyard poultry, and don't eat or drink around them. This can spread Salmonella germs to your mouth and make you sick."

Holding a Hen
Credit: georgeclerk/Getty Images

The CDC issued an almost identical warning last yearand in 2019… and, yes, many times before that. And if you think these are isolated incidents from some fringe, chicken-cuddling cult, think again. This latest notice states that 163 illnesses and 34 hospitalizations have been reported across… get this… 43 states!  Thankfully, no deaths have been recorded.

But last year, we weren't so lucky: Outbreaks tied to backyard poultry were investigated in all 50 states, resulting in 1,722 documented illnesses, 333 hospitalizations, and one death. It was the highest number of illnesses ever reported linked to backyard flocks.

The silver lining is that based on last year's timeline, Americans appear to be below 2020's record pace as far as illnesses are concerned. So yes, Americans may be sick of hearing these warnings, but hopefully, continuing to push the message that you shouldn't snuggle your chickens no matter how much you love them will finally start to resonate.