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Injury Prevention and Safety

Easter Birds and Kids: Children at Higher Risk of Salmonella Infection from Chicks and Ducklings

8 newly hatched chicks

Chicks and ducklings may be cute and cuddly, but think twice before getting these critters for your kids for Easter!  Chicks and ducklings could carry Salmonella infection, an illness that is particularly dangerous to young children.  And the ugly duckling fact is that many of these animals show no signs of being sick when they have Salmonella.

Reducing Your Risk of Infection

If you do choose to give Easter chicks or ducklings to your kids, you need to be aware of the risks that go along with handling young birds.  Make sure everyone in the household follows the correct measures to avoid bacterial infection:

young child washing hands in kitchen sick, assisted by an adult


(Photo by Ken Chamberlain)

Protecting the Young and the Elderly

Small children should avoid contact with these birds.  Young children tend to put their hands in their mouth frequently.  They are also less likely to wash their hands adequately after touching the birds.

In fact, children under 5 years of age should not touch chicks and ducklings at all. Children under 5 are almost four times more likely to get Salmonella than older children and adults.  Kids younger than 1 are 11 times more likely to become sick with this disease. 

In addition to young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are also more likely to get Salmonella infection.


Recognizing Salmonella

Symptoms of Salmonella infection include:

Most people recover without treatment. However, in some cases the diarrhea may be severe enough to require hospitalization. In these patients, the infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream and then to other parts of the body.  This increases the risk of death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

Each year in the United States, Salmonella infection causes an estimated:


Knowing the Law
Be aware of the laws that govern the sale of chicks. In Ohio, for instance, it is illegal to sell or give away chicks or ducklings younger than four weeks of age in lots of less than six.


Considering Other Options

Keep in mind that these tiny birds will grow up rather quickly.  Before you decide to buy them or accept them as gifts, think carefully about what you are going to do with them once they are grown.

Choosing a chocolate bunny or candy peeps might be better options!

Dr. Jeff LeJeune Explains:

Dr. LeJeune, microbiologist from The Ohio State University








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Last Reviewed: Mar 21, 2013

Jeff  LeJeune, PhD Jeff LeJeune, PhD
OARDC Food Animal Health
College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Science
The Ohio State University