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This may sound like a Hollywood hoax but owning pet chickens instead of our four-legged friends is a risky trend that demands poultry vet specialists.


March 5, 2019

Nel Liquorman, Investigative Reporter


Many of us may have assumed that since dyed chicks were not showing up for Easter 2019, the practice must have fallen out of favor but it appears that the trend simply went underground. Laws against the practice of dying chicks as Easter gifts for kids are state not federal. Even when illegal, some chicken producers still inject dye into eggs that they give to children in the family.


Backyard chicken flocks are part of rural American but today it has become fashionable to own chickens as pets. The trend took hold in Silicon Valley where owners are splurging for chicken coups complete with stained glass windows! Even is in on the act with coops and “chicken diapers” for the house pets.


There are now pet-chicken breeders and these fashionable pets are sold through internet websites at $50 to $500 for a single chicken.


While you would expect that some veterinarians would be poultry specialists due to the fact that the USDA needs health experts to keep the poultry industry healthy, you would not expect a need for poultry vets for pet owners. Yet they are out there!


Here’s a true example. An urban family had a pet chicken. It got really sick and the Mom dropped her son off at a “Poultry” Veterinarian’s office with the chicken. When she picked her son, the carrier he held was empty. He related that tests had to be done, and finally, the vet had euthanized the chicken after having the young man sign all the appropriate forms to allow him to do so. Despite the fact that the bill was almost $400, his (obviously wealthy) Mom broke into laughter! Following this trend seems a little goofy to me but I’m glad they didn’t get a dog or cat as a family pet!


Since it is the responsibility of veterinarians to report diseases, you know that testing of any pet chicken seen by a veterinarian will likely be mandatory.


National reportable chicken diseases include:

highly pathogenic avian influenza; low pathogenic avian influenza (H5 or H7 subtypes); Newcastle disease (exotic); avian infectious bronchitis; infectious bursal disease (Gumboro disease); Marek’s disease; mycoplasmosis (M. gallisepticum); avian chlamydiosis (psittacosis and ornithosis, Chlamydia psittaci); and pullorum disease (Salmonella pullorum).


Could a contrived fashion in pet ownership be a way to boost veterinary incomes damaged by the truth about over-vaccination which cost many veterinary practices as much as two-thirds of their incomes? I saw a reference to the expected cost of veterinarian care for a pet chicken at just over $275 a year. Then there was mention that chickens get lonely for other chickens, suggesting that people with a pet chicken should consider getting more than one.


Imagine a pet owner with a “flock” in need of a “wellness examine” yearly. There is no legal requirement for vaccines for pet chickens (yet) but veterinarians in some states are pushing for regulations requiring pet chickens to be humanely euthanized by a Veterinarian. Does that smack of an Animal Rights?


Remember, the USDA no longer allows antibiotics for use in food chickens. What are the laws for pet chickens? Are Veterinarians breaking any of the USDA laws by treating pet chickens? When I read in Food Safety News that chicken processors often blamed salmonella poisoning on the way consumers handled raw chicken, the idea got my hackles up. If Salmonella was not already present in the raw chicken, how could the consumer possibly spread it around in the kitchen?


What about Salmonella Disease? So, I did some in-depth research, wondering if whole chickens with livers, gizzards, and necks packed into the cavity pose a risk for salmonella. One premium brand of fresh raw chicken states “no parts inside the chicken” and when I removed the sealed plastic, the chicken looked as if a butcher had carefully washed and dried it.


There are other poultry disease risks and a few years ago I wrote to a major poultry producer. Click to enlarge the response and how “chilled water” can prevent salmonella when handling chicken.


But we must take notice that salmonella is bacteria that exists in the intestinal track of chickens and other animals. It can be spread via chicken droppings. While USDA regulations exist to keep the chicken farming industry safe, the pet chicken trend seems to be exempt from controls and could quickly become another salmonella outbreak or even bird flu. Should a residence with pet chickens be declared a farm and come under USDA farm rules in order to protect the food supply? Give it some thought. Your dinner may depend upon it!


Despite the wishes of some bird lovers, it is not likely that a pet chicken will ever replace the dog or the cat. EST 2002 © 1903



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