Yep, it’s chick season, but please don’t kiss the birds

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Chicks may be cute, but they can also carry harmful bacteria that will make you sick.

With virtually every feed store in the valley selling live chicks, the state Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Livestock is again reminding folks that birds can carry illnesses and disease that can make people sick, or worse, if the birds are not properly handled.

In addition, people raising chickens are also urged to use electric or other fencing to keep bears and other predators out of coops and feed.

On the human health side of raising chickens, poultry can carry and shed bacteria such as Salmonella without showing any signs of disease. Salmonella can cause illness in humans and can be spread while handling live poultry or objects in their environment.

When raising birds, the following precautions are advided:

• Wash your hands with soap and water after handling animals

• Avoid touching your mouth after animal contact

• Don’t eat or drink around animals

• Avoid kissing or snuggling your birds

• Keep chicks and ducks outside of the home

• Supervise small children around animals.

In 2018, 12 percent of Montanans who were diagnosed with Salmonella or Campylobacter had a history of poultry contact before they became ill.

“Even if animals appear healthy and clean, they can still transmit disease to people,” Rachel Hinnenkamp, epidemiologist for the DPHHS Public Health and Safety Division said. Children under five and people with weakened immune systems, such as pregnant women, the elderly, and those with chronic disease, are at the highest risk for infection and should avoid handling live poultry.

“When caring for backyard flocks, these prevention methods will help keep you and your families healthy and enjoying the benefits of raising animals,” said DOL Assistant State Veterinarian Dr. Tahnee Szymanski. “While using proper safety precautions, raising your own backyard poultry can be a fun and safe experience.”

To keep bruins and other predators away from birds, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks recommends an electric fencer that has a high joule rating of 0.7-1.0 stored joules or 0.5-0.7 output joules. In short, that type of fencer gives a significant shock to bear or other animal.

Electric fences are also effective against skunks, raccoons, fox, coyotes and domestic dogs, which can also wreak havoc with chickens and chicken coops.

They also recommend electrified net fencing as a portable alternative.

Bears will be coming out of their dens in the coming weeks. The first awake bruins have already been spotted in Yellowstone National Park.

FWP has a free brochure of how to set up and electric fence properly at http://fwp.mt.gov/fishAndWildlife/livingWithWildlife/beBearAware/bearAwareTools.html

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