Want to reduce your chances of becoming just another statistic in the latest salmonella outbreak? There’s an easy solution, says the Centers for Disease Control. Stop kissing your chickens.
The headline “CDC Warning – Stop Kissing Chickens” landed in my news feed a few days ago, so naturally I dropped absolutely everything else I was doing and read the story. A Fox 10 News station somewhere in Arizona gave me the grim numbers.
Over the past 25 years, 13% of chicken-related salmonella cases were caused by people kissing their chickens. Over half admitted to snuggling with the baby chicks, and almost half admitted to keeping the chickens in the house.
Arizona residents, in my head: “Oh, great! Not only do we have to stop kissing our chickens, but we have to stop snuggling them too? And give me a break. You mean to tell me that I’m supposed to keep my barnyard animals outside, instead of next to my bed? What kind of monster are you?”
Come on, people! While ‘Dirty Chicken Kissers’ would obviously be a great name for a rock band, it’s no way to live your life. Was it just Arizona? Are there other states where salmonella is decimating the chicken kissers? I must know! Off I go to the CDC website, where I learn... holy puckering poultry, Batman. There’s a nationwide epidemic of dirty chicken kissers! Arizona is the least of our worries. The biggest offenders are highly concentrated in the Great Lakes states and the upper north east.
Just a Smidge PSA:
Hey up there. It’s wicked bad to kiss your chickens, eh. And don’t let ‘em inside to sit on the davenport with ya, OK? Salmonella is wicked bad. Keep ‘em outside in the yaahd, eh.
That should take care of the problem, but just in case, the CDC did come up with a wicked good poster. It’s a yellow silhouette picture of a baby chick with the title “Don’t play chicken with your health. Wash your hands.” – I’m not making that up.
Inside the outline of the baby chick there’s a handy salmonella outbreak chart by year, showing the number of outbreaks caused by handling live poultry, with the outbreak indicators as cute fuzzy little baby chicks. Again, not making this up.
Our most dangerous chicken kissing year as a nation was 2012, with eight baby chicks stacked up on top of each other. Ranked second-worst was 2009, with six baby chicks stacked, and four chicks stacked on 2015 puts it in a five-way tie for third worst with four other years since 2000.
The poster shows us that 1992 through 1994 were the happy times. Zero stacked chicks for those years suggests that chicken kissing was apparently still frowned upon back then.
This unnerving spike in chicken kissing got me thinking. Why in the hell would anyone kiss a chicken? Also, I thought, this must be due to the seemingly recent increase in the amount of people who have converted the back 0.000344 acres of their suburban backyards into chicken farms.
I can only assume that this practice has something to do with ‘sustainability,’ or ‘homesteading,’ or getting ‘off the grid.’ I doubt too many people wake up and think, “You know what we should do? We should become commercial poultry producers! Wait, we live in town and own no land. Oh, well. Let’s throw a tiny coop and four chickens in the backyard for now, and we’ll expand into a multi-million-dollar operation when we can.”
The ‘sustainability’ aspect got me thinking some more. In this case I guess sustainable means someone will keep selling you chicken feed. But does having backyard chickens that you can kiss and snuggle and bring indoors make financial sense? What’s the national average price for a dozen eggs? How much does it cost to keep a kissable chicken alive and making eggs? Why in the hell would you let a chicken live inside your house? And where? In the kitchen? Living room? Chickens don’t even have lips as far as I know.
There was a lot going on in my head.
Because the internet is awesome, I was able to look up all the information I needed in my normal exhaustive two-minute Google research time allotment. Chickens definitely do not have lips. Also, I was able to find a website apparently dedicated to tracking the price of a dozen eggs on a nationwide scale. That beat my prediction of “there’s no way anyone has a website that tracks nationwide egg prices” by one hundred percent.
For simplicity’s sake, we’ll say that a dozen eggs will run you about two dollars right now, if you live in Anywheresville, USA. My public school math tells me that equates to seventeen cents per egg.
Purina Premium Poultry Feed costs fourteen dollars for fifty pounds. That would be twenty-eight cents a pound not counting tax. Yet another website reveals that an average laying hen eats about a quarter pound of feed a day. So your four chickens are downing twenty-eight cents worth of premium chicken feed every day.
Homesteading websites tell us that we can expect an average of one egg per day from each of our healthy, happy hens. If chicken feed were all we needed, we’d be money ahead with our flock, getting eggs for a mere seven cents each. A full ten cents cheaper than the store brand. I think we all know, after perusing the chicken feed store websites that mere chicken feed will not do it. Our hens need to be happy.
The thirty-ounce bag of Happy Hen Treats Mealworm Frenzy – I swear I’m not making that name up – costs twenty-five bucks. I don’t know how many mealworm treats it takes to keep my hens in a laying mood, but thirty ounces doesn’t seem like it would last that long. Especially if these mealworms are so good they cause a frenzy, as advertised.
So you have unspecified mealworm expenses, and let’s not forget the initial set up costs. Not the least of which is your Williams-Sonoma Cedar Chicken Coop with Planter that set you back fifteen hundred dollars – you heard me – or the designer chicken toys to keep them engaged and mentally stimulated.
Add in your inevitable ER visit for salmonella poisoning, and I think this chicken raising business is costing you about nine hundred dollars per egg, give or take.
I think I’ll stick with the eggs from the commercial poultry producer. He keeps the egg shelves at the store full for me, which I find very convenient, and when I don’t want eggs, I just don’t buy them. Try that with your flock.
He’s smart, too. You know what that commercial poultry producer never does? Kiss his damn chickens, that’s what.
See you soon,
Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen
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