Caring for your health when handling poultry and eggs

While owning backyard poultry can have many advantages, it is important to be aware of the possible human health risks. This includes food poisoning from contaminated eggs or home-killed chicken meat.

Food pathogens (disease-causing agents) such as salmonella can be both inside the egg and on the shell surface. Therefore, contamination may result from poor hygiene when handling birds or eggs,  poor hygiene during food preparation or from the consumption of raw or undercooked eggs. Salmonella infection may also result if you fertilise your  backyard vegetable patch with manure from your poultry.

You can reduce the risk of contamination with food pathogens (including salmonella) by following some simple hygiene rules when preparing food:

  • Wash your hands after handling birds or eggs and before handling any other food – and of course, before eating.
  • Thoroughly wash any home-grown vegetables which have been fertilised with poultry manure.
  • If your birds are free-range and you come across a nest that you haven’t seen before, don’t use those eggs as you won’t know how long they have been there for.
  • Collect your eggs daily and twice daily in very hot weather.
  • Store your eggs in the fridge and use the oldest eggs first.
  • Don’t use eggs that are cracked, soiled or that have been wet while in the nest (wet eggshells are porous and may allow contamination).
  • Avoid consuming raw or undercooked eggs. Eggs are properly cooked when the white is firm, and the yolk is at least starting to thicken.
Page last updated: 19 Feb 2024