A: Each year many area children get Easter chicks or ducklings as gifts. Many of these little birds live only a few short weeks or months due to improper care and neglect. My primary advice is to buy only chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chicks, and lollipop ducklings this Easter.
Because they are so cute and fluffy, many people do not realize the potential risk in handling these baby animals. Young birds often carry the harmful bacteria Salmonella. Each spring children are infected by Easter chicks or ducklings.
It’s important to note that birds that carry Salmonella frequently show no signs of illness. The harmful bacteria populate the bird’s intestines and eventually coat their entire bodies. Children are exposed by kissing, cuddling, or simply holding the birds.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following safety steps:
- Do NOT purchase live animals as Easter gifts. Give toy stuffed animals instead.
- Do not let children under 5 years of age handle baby chicks or other young birds. Keep them from coming into contact with packages in which chicks or ducklings arrive.
- If anyone touches the chicks or ducklings or their environment, make sure that they wash their hands immediately afterwards. Pacifiers, toys, bottles or other objects should not touch the baby birds or their enclosures. If these objects do become contaminated, wash them with warm soapy water.
- Do not allow anyone to eat or drink while interacting with birds or their environment. Keep the bird area separate from areas where food and drink are prepared or consumed. Do not allow chicks or ducklings on table surfaces or places where food will be prepared or eaten.
- Talk to your veterinarian, nurse or doctor about other possible risk factors.