NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – Nearly 800 cases of salmonella have been linked to birds raised in backyards across the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Northeast Florida, several neighborhoods now allow chickens to be raised in backyard coops. The most recent is Neptune Beach, where City Council approved a pilot program to allow them.
The idea of having fresh farm life nearby is catching on, but it's the handling of the birds that has health officials concerned.
CDC RESOURCE: Healthy families and flocks
It's not every day you see chickens in a backyard, but for the past few months, Amy Vickery has decided to call Coco Chanel and Betty White her own.
"They love raisins. Betty White is being shy. She's usually the most active," Vickery said. "They'll graze in the yard and eat the grass and weeds. They love weeds."
She said when they were babies, they also loved being rubbed. But according to a recent study published by the CDC, that's no longer the best idea.
According to the CDC, in the last seven months, there have been 790 cases linking live poultry to salmonella. Specifically, researchers are linking the outbreak to backyard flocks.
Out of the 48 states with the illness, Florida has the second highest number, with 30 people infected. Health officials said this is why it's crucial to wash hands immediately after contact.
"We'll pat them on the back, but the important thing is you have to immediately go inside, wash your hands," Vickery said. "If you have them on your clothing and stuff, you're supposed to change your clothes."
Health officials also warn if your backyard chickens roam in your garden, be sure to wash your produce thoroughly. If you have any pets that come in contact with chickens, they, too, run the risk of getting sick.
For more information on keeping backyard poultry, visit the CDC website.
When it comes to the Neptune Beach pilot program, anyone who wants hens will have to take a class to get a certificate and then apply for a coop permit.