Chicken owners in Tucson protect against salmonella

Published: Jul. 20, 2016 at 7:54 PM MST|Updated: Jul. 21, 2016 at 2:04 AM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Arizona is now one of 45 states across the U.S. with reported cases of salmonella linked to backyard, or urban chickens, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The latest report from the CDC lists more than 600 salmonella cases with two of them happening in Arizona. The state wasn't included on the CDC's previous report.

Even a chicken that appears to be healthy can carry salmonella, according to the CDC.

Tucson city leaders approved new regulations for urban/backyard chickens in December 2015.

Tucson CLUCKS, Tucson City Living Urban Chicken Keeping Society, helped shape those new regulations, according to Dennis Mizer. He said the organization has more than 3,000 members and they've tallied close to 10,000 families in metropolitan Tucson that raise chickens.

Comparing those numbers to two salmonella cases for the entire state is reason enough for Mizer not to worry about salmonella.

"It's actually a lot lower than I would have thought, and mostly because of the good housekeeping practices that backyard chicken owners tend to keep," he said.

Those practices include washing hands after touching chickens or eggs and scrubbing rooms with bleach in case a chicken finds its way inside.

Mizer also recommends researching the issue before buying any chickens or equipment. All of his chickens are certified salmonella-free, so he advises to only buy from reputable sellers.

Joe Pagac, who keeps a couple chicken at his home north of downtown Tucson, said several of his chickens were actually strays from the neighborhood.

Salmonella isn't an concern that he thinks about much, but Pagac said he also uses common sense. 

"I always wash my hands," he said. "I cook the eggs. I don't eat them raw or anything like Rocky...for the most part, I haven't gotten sick in the last seven years so I think that's done the trick."

So far in 2016, the city of Tucson has received 13 complaints about chickens, according to Tucson Environmental Services / Code Enforcement. Ten of the cases have been resolved and the other three are still being investigated.

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