Children with chickens
In the presence of the chickens in your yard, the children will develop a greater awareness of where the food comes from and discover a world full of interesting learnings.
Empowering children to take responsibility for basic care will make them very proud and promote the development of self-esteem. Exposing children to animal care has been shown to develop compassion, empathy and a greater respect for the living world.
Educating children to care for chickens means not only teaching them where the food comes from, but also teaching them hygiene and health instructions. Although the risks are very low, it is always necessary to ensure that children wash their hands and supervise the toddlers because they tend to put their hands to their mouths. This precaution applies to all pets, such as dogs and cats, which carry germs that are harmful to humans. Especially if they are elderly or immunosuppressed. Children under 5 years of age should not hold chickens.
Remind children not to touch their mouths during their activities and games with chickens and any pets, without making them anxious about the chickens. Children should be able to have fun with their chickens and you can incorporate activities related to chickens. Science, art, biology, storytelling, etc. projects can be integrated.
Zoonoses are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. They are sometimes referred to as “zoonotic diseases”.
Animals can carry harmful germs such as bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses. These are then transmitted to humans and cause diseases. Zoonotic diseases range from mild to severe, and some can even be fatal.
Direct contact: this is contact with the body fluids of an infected animal, such as saliva, blood, urine, mucus or feces. Ex: a turtle in your hand is direct contact.
Indirect contact: consists of coming into contact with an area where infected animals live, or by touching an object that has been contaminated by an infected animal. E.g. aquarium tank, chicken house.
Salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis Symptoms of salmonellosis or campylobacteriosis include diarrhea (which may be bloody), fever and/or abdominal cramps. If the infection is severe, hospitalization may be required and the infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and other sites in the body, which can be life-threatening. The infection usually lasts up to a week.
Here in Quebec, the storyteller France-Anne Blanchet has been seducing children since the fall of 2014 with her “poules savantes”, whose shows, organized in schools and libraries, aim to help develop self-esteem.
The KODO Group is a group of special educators who explore and research various educational issues. They have researched chickens with children in schools to provide facts about the real issues and risks of contamination for children. For it is true that schools have had projects with chicks and ducklings for a long time. These experiments with poultry tend to develop even more. According to this group, the more children are exposed outdoors to live microorganisms, the stronger their immune systems will develop. Small scrapes on the knees are part of this important process.
Having a few chickens helps to introduce notions of science and get the children involved in educational projects. Watch this video on the development of the chick in its shell.
Risks, issues and nuances :
So, yes, according to KODO, the Canadian agency and all the experts, there are risks associated with keeping laying hens in your backyard when you have children. Because, the way a child would contract germs, would be if he carries chicken droppings directly in his mouth. The hens that would be carriers, would have carrier eggs. Not all chickens are carriers of salmonella by default. Many hatcheries vaccinate their hens against salmonella and inspect the eggs and hens. So hand washing is important for everyone and should be enough to eliminate the risk of contamination.
In conclusion, Kodo and several other organizations support educational programs with chickens and hens in schools as long as educators implement appropriate hygiene measures.
Here are some guidelines to follow with your children to avoid contamination with bacteria such as salmonella.
1) If you have purchased chicks, wait until the chicks are transferred outside, once they are fairly well developed, healthy and strong, before letting the children do routine tasks.
2) Give tasks that don’t expose your children to germs: Like carrying the basket with the eggs, handing out feed on the floor.
3) Place sanitizing towels near the chicken coop and invite your children to wash their hands outside before entering the house to wash with soap and water.
4) Don’t let the chickens roam the house unless you have given them a bath.
5) Don’t eat the eggs raw.
6) Don’t let hens share eating areas such as picnic tables.
7) If you want to be more careful, you could wear medical gloves to handle, examine and treat your hens.
8) Remind children not to touch their mouths during activities and games with hens and any pets, but don’t make them anxious about the hens. Children must be able to have fun with their chickens and you can integrate activities related to chickens. Science, art, biology, storytelling, etc. projects can be integrated.
Play and creation have no more limits because chickens are such fun animals.
But according to Kodo
‘s research: here are some facts about the risks of contamination and the real stakes.
Because we know that millions of citizens every year contract salmonella infections from the food in their refrigerators, restaurants, etc., and that they can be infected with salmonella. The reported cases of chicken-related contaminants in our yards are so rare and infrequent that the real cause has never been 100% proven.
Here are a few facts according to KODO. The data is taken from results in the United States
:- Since 1990, there have been only 53 Salmonella outbreaks in the country (~ 2 per year), resulting in only 5 deaths, or 0.002% of severe cases leading to death. – In addition, the
risk of an American becoming ill and contracting Salmonella from handling poultry is 0.000054%. The risk of being hospitalized or dying from it is even lower! –
Many other animals can be carriers of salmonella such as hamsters, gerbils, mice, birds and even small fish without having been banned from schools!
– Many foods are potentially capable of infecting our children in the classroom with salmonella germs. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and poultry meat.
Moreover, according to the Canadian agency
:- Our countertops, cutting boards can also transmit germs.
Are salmonellosis outbreaks common in Canada?
Foodborne illness is relatively common in Canada. The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that approximately 4 million Canadians a year contract foodborne illnesses.
Salmonellosis is the second most reported foodborne illness in Canada. Many of the reported cases are isolated, but some are part of outbreaks.
– Most people who get salmonellosis recover completely within a few days.
– Homemade products such as salad dressings, hollandaise sauce, mayonnaise, ice cream, cookie dough, tiramisu and frostings can carry the germs.
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