Peep, chirp, quack!
Why parents should think twice before giving
baby birds for Easter
Easter brings to mind brightly colored eggs, baskets full of candy,
and large chocolate bunnies. Traditions associated with the Easter
season are enjoyable for children and adults alike. However, some
Easter traditions are of particular concern for children, placing
them at risk for serious illness. Baby animals, including baby
chicks and ducks, are sometimes given as gifts or put on display
at this time. Because they are so soft and cute, many people do
not realize the potential danger baby chicks and ducklings can
be to small children. Young birds often carry harmful bacteria
called Salmonella. And, each spring some children become infected
with Salmonella after receiving a baby chick or duckling for Easter.
Harmful bacteria carried in the chick’s and duckling’s intestine
contaminates their environment and the entire surface of the
animal. Children can be exposed to the bacteria by simply holding,
cuddling, or kissing the birds. Children are most susceptible
to infection because they are more likely than others to put
their fingers into their mouths and because their immune systems
are still developing. Others at increased risk include persons
with HIV/AIDS, pregnant women, the elderly and other immunocompromised
following questions and answers contain important information
for parents about baby chicks, ducklings and Salmonella. For
further information please visit our website or talk to your veterinarian or health care provider.
1. Why should I not buy chicks and ducklings as Easter gifts?
Each spring there is an increase in demand from hatcheries
and farms to supply young animals for Easter. To meet the
demand, chicks are specially hatched in large quantities and
are shipped around the country. Hatching and shipping many
animals at one time increases the stress upon the chicks and
ducklings and makes them more prone to disease. The likelihood
of shedding Salmonella bacteria and infecting others increases.
2. How is Salmonella transmitted?
Children become infected by putting their fingers or other
things contaminated with chick stool into their mouths. Chicks
and ducklings often do not appear dirty but may have feces
on their feathers and beaks - places where children are likely
3. How do I know if a chick or duckling has Salmonella?
Many chicks and young birds carry Salmonella in their feces.
It is difficult to know if chicks are carrying Salmonella because they will not usually show signs of illness.
4. How do I reduce the exposure of young children to Salmonella from chicks and ducklings?
a. Do NOT purchase live animals as Easter gifts. Give toy
stuffed animals instead.
b. Do not let children under 5 years of age handle baby chicks
or other young birds. Keep them from coming into contact with
packages in which chicks or ducklings arrive.
c. If anyone touches the chicks or ducklings or their environment,
make sure that they wash their hands immediately afterwards.
Pacifiers, toys, bottles or other objects should not touch
the baby birds or their enclosures. If these objects do become
contaminated, wash them with warm soapy water.
d. Do not allow anyone to eat or drink while interacting with
birds or their environment. Keep the bird area separate from
areas where food and rink are prepared or consumed. Do not
allow chicks or ducklings on table surfaces or places where
food will be prepared or eaten.
e. Talk to your veterinarian, nurse or doctor about possible
What are the signs of Salmonella infections in humans?
Salmonellosis (sal-mon-el-OH-sis) is a disease caused by
the bacterium Salmonella. Most people have diarrhea, fever,
and stomach pain that starts 1 to 3 days after they ingest
the bacteria. These symptoms usually resolve after 1 week.
Other symptoms might be nausea, chills, headaches or general
achy feeling. Young children, the elderly and other immunocompromised
persons may have a more severe infection. Occasionally, infections
are so severe that people have to see a doctor or be hospitalized.
6. How are Salmonella infections diagnosed and treated?
Diagnosis is obtained from culture of Salmonella from the
stool. Treatments are usually supportive, consisting of fluid
therapy and pain relief. Antibiotics should only be used to
treat severe cases of illness because antibiotics may prolong
the disease and many strains of Salmonella are resistant to
7. Are there any government restrictions concerning the sale
At this time the federal government has no restrictions concerning
the sale of chicks and ducklings. State governments have recognized
the risk of Salmonella to young children and have passed restrictions
for pet stores and local agencies that prohibit the sale of
baby chicks around Easter.
8. Where can I find education materials about the risks of chick associated salmonellosis?
Washington Department of Health and the Zoonoses Education Coalition have created materials for download and printing.
Washington Department of Health has created a poster, flyer, and stickers that say, “After you touch a duck or chick, wash your hands so you don’t get sick.”
Their materials can be found at the following website: http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/ts/Zoo/salmonellachick.html
The Zoonoses Education Coalition has also created a poster and a sticker.
Chick Poster Size 18”X23” 300dpi
Stickers 300dpi PDF 3.09MB
Use Avery size #5294 laser Large Round Labels. There are 12 labels to a sheet.
If you are interested in learning more please visit the following
articles or our website, Healthy Pets Healthy People.
Three Outbreaks of Salmonellosis Associated with Baby Poultry from Three Hatcheries --- United States, 2006
Salmonella serotype Montevideo infections associated with
chicks--Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, spring 1995 and 1996. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 1997 Mar 21;46(11):237-9.