Americans who keep chickens as pets are balking at new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that urges such pet owners not to kiss their chickens. This activity has been connected to a salmonella outbreak that affected nearly 200 people and necessitated at least 33 hospitalizations.
“Many ill people in these outbreaks reported bringing live poultry into their homes, and others reported kissing or cuddling with the live poultry,” the CDC said in a press release. “These behaviors increase a person’s risk of a salmonella infection.”
The Mattke family of Washington, D.C., for example, keeps six chickens that are treated as soft and cuddly pets. For now, the risk of infection is not a great concern for the family, who see the chickens as a great way to relieve stress. “Caledonia will jump up in my lap,” one member of the family told NPR, describing her favorite chicken. “They make this peaceful farm noise. What's better when you're in the middle of a workday than to hear that?”
Nonetheless, the CDC is less than convinced of the hygiene of keeping a chicken close. “We do not recommend snuggling or kissing the birds or touching them to your mouth,” Megin Nichols, a veterinarian with the CDC, told NPR. “That is certainly one way people become infected with salmonella.”