The guidance out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has admittedly been a little confusing these past few weeks, but on one thing they are clear: No kissing chickens. Please! No more kisses! You have to stop, it’s for your own good!
You are probably wondering: Why does the CDC care if my chickens and I exchange the occasional peck, surely the CDC has more urgent problems on its plate right now? Well! It has come to the CDC’s attention that a bunch of people got Salmonella infections in roughly this way over the past year: at least 163 people in 43 states since February 2020, to be precise. And while it is eminently possible to contract Salmonella poisoning — think: fever, diarrhea, vomiting, cramping — from eating raw or undercooked chicken, that is not what the CDC believes happened here. This spate of infections reportedly came from “backyard poultry,” a category that also includes chicks, ducklings, turkeys, geese, and ducks, so don’t kiss those, either.
These birds often carry Salmonella, “even if they look healthy and clean” as the CDC notes, and their human caretakers can pick it up through contact with the animals, their waste, or surfaces in their environments. Therefore, the CDC recommends washing hands thoroughly after poultry time, and also the immediate cessation of any canoodling. The agency warns: “Don’t kiss or snuggle backyard poultry,” particularly if you are a young kid, as young kids are the most likely candidates for severe Salmonella infections. And! Constant vigilance, because backyard poultry season is upon us: “Spring and summer are always popular times for people to purchase chicks, ducklings, and other live poultry. As people tend to their new flocks, increases in Salmonella infections linked to live poultry are usually reported.”
While it is true that chickens have occasionally killed the things that offend them — see this fox, murdered in a henhouse — and while it would therefore be understandable for you to want to get on a chicken’s good side, probably find a way to do it that doesn’t involve gentle little forehead kisses. Okay?! Okay.