Write Team: If you keep chickens, be sure to heed precautions and stay safe

Don’t be kissing any chickens.

No, I am not referring to your lip-smacking, finger-lickin’ good KFC chicken; enjoy that chicken to your heart’s content.

This caution comes for the many poultry enthusiasts who have embraced raising chickens and gathering fresh eggs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a warning for backyard coop owners after salmonella outbreaks have recently occurred in 43 states.

Salmonella is a bacterial infection that can cause fever, stomach cramps and diarrhea. Children younger than 5 made up one-third of the newly reported cases. Additional cases may have gone unreported because some people may think it’s the flu and don’t seek testing. Most people recover without medical intervention, but if symptoms continue past a few days, seek help to avoid dehydration.

“Don’t kiss or snuggle backyard poultry, and don’t eat or drink around them. This can spread Salmonella germs to your mouth and make you sick,” the health agency advised. Birds can transmit the illness even if they appear healthy.

Additionally, people should wash their hands after handling chickens. Keep animals and supplies outside. Children younger than 5 should limit touching live poultry.

Health officials encourage everyone to keep safety in mind when handling chickens and eggs. Be careful gathering eggs; throw away broken or cracked ones. Do not wash eggs in water – use a cloth or brush to clean them, and then wash the cloth or brush, too. Always refrigerate eggs after cleaning. Keep washing your hands with soap.

More towns have added ordinances allowing residents to keep a coop in the backyard. Having fresh eggs is a pleasure not just reserved for farm folks anymore; city dwellers can indulge, too.

Reading this warning online got me thinking about chickens, and then all the sayings that came from somebody observing them and their behaviors. For instance, there’s a “nest egg” and “pecking order,” and there’s the advice to not count your chickens until they hatch. How about “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

There’s “chicken feed,” a “hen party,” a “bad egg” and a “mother hen.” Also, “flew the coop,” “dumb cluck,” “rule the roost” and “chicken scratch.” Nobody wants to “be henpecked” or “madder than a wet hen.”

And, of course, Chicken Little, who proclaimed “The sky is falling!”

In the movie “9 to 5,” Dolly Parton’s character, Doralee Rhodes, had put up with her chauvinistic boss’ bad behavior until she couldn’t take it anymore.

“If you ever say another word about me or make another indecent proposal, I’m gonna get that gun of mine and I’m gonna change you from a rooster to a hen with one shot!” she said. (No violence advocated here).

If you keep chickens, good for you. Just be sure to heed precautions and stay safe.

Maybe instead of kissing or hugging your chicks, you could do the “chicken dance” with them. Play that traditional wedding reception song, start flapping and clapping and dancing around your backyard.

And if your neighbors look over the fence with an odd look on their faces, invite them over to join the fun.

If they don’t come, then the yolk’s on them.

• Karen Roth is a semiretired librarian/educator living in Ottawa. She can be reached at dbarichello@shawmedia.com.