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The Big 3: Combat Common Diseases with Backyard Chicken Keeping

amanda-neeWhen Jessie founded Green City Growers in 2008, she sought to find a solution to major health outbreaks that were becoming all-too-common in industrial vegetable production. These days, though, health concerns about egg and poultry production seem just as common, and we see backyard chicken keeping as an equally promising solution for addressing health concerns. Over the next few weeks, our very first “Summer Chicken Intern”, Amanda Nee of Tufts Vet School, will be sharing information about common backyard chicken public health concerns and preventative maintenance to avoid them.
To begin with, we find that most of the diseases we hear about in the news like Salmonella and Avian Influenza are actually extremely rare in backyard flocks. Many believe this is because backyard birds tend to have a more natural environment than your typical commercial flock, including conditions similar to those addressed in our “Big Three” recommendations of Space, Diet, and Maintenance.

  1. Plenty of protected outside space (we recommend at least 10 sq ft per hen) with ready access to sunshine, shade, and fresh air,
  2. A varied diet including plenty of “real food” like greens and garden bugs, and
  3. A secure coop that is regularly maintained to ensure their living space stays clean and dry.

These “Big Three” points help contribute to a strong and healthy immune system for your birds, which is their best protection against any illness or diseases.


What is it?

A bacterium of the gut that has the potential to cause the digestive condition, Salmonellosis. At low levels, these germs may be found in healthy poultry and people.

How is it transmitted?

People can contract it when bacteria are ingested, often by handling or consuming unwashed or uncooked contaminated food.

How is it prevented?

Follow the “Big Three” recommendations for Space, Diet, and Maintenance. Also, always wash hands (1) after contact with birds (2) before and after handling eggs (3) before and after preparing meals. Cook food thoroughly.


Avian Influenza

What is it?

Also known as “Bird Flu”, a virus that is transmitted from one bird to another. An infected chicken may show many, some, or no symptoms at all.

How is it transmitted?

Domestic birds can contract it through contact with contaminated nasal, fecal or respiratory fluids from wild birds. Rarely, people can be infected through direct contact with sick birds, but the strains found in the U.S. cannot currently be transmitted between people.

How is it prevented?

Follow the “Big Three” recommendations for Space, Diet, and Maintenance. Monitor your domestic birds and promptly address any signs of illness. Always wash hands after contact. If possible, limit exposure to wild populations.


By raising backyard chickens, you can take accountability for the where your breakfast comes from, and quickly diagnose and treat any issues, should they arise. Green City Growers even offers ‘health insurance’ for your chickens, should you see that something’s “not quite right.”

We’ll be posting more about public health concerns surrounding chicken keeping in the coming weeks. Interested in learning all about raising your own flock? Sign up now for our Backyard Chicken Keeping 101 workshop, this Tuesday June 30th at 6:30 PM!

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