Salmonella is a common bacteria that spreads among chickens. Salmonella enterica serotype enteritidis is the most common serovar and it is less pathogenic to birds, however it can be easily transmitted to chicken products and infect humans. That’s why it’s essential to implement effective measures to prevent and control the spread of Salmonella to maintain healthy chickens.

This guide provides an overview of Salmonella, how it spreads, and practical steps to help protect your chickens from this harmful pathogen.


What is Salmonella?

Salmonella is a type of bacteria with the potential to cause mild to severe illness in humans and animals, leading to hospitalization in some cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that Salmonella is the cause of more than a million foodborne illnesses each year in the United States.

Foods like chicken, beef, and eggs can be carriers of Salmonella bacteria. Effective food safety practices are essential to prevent the spread of this pathogen. Moreover, the bacteria can spread through other means, such as contaminated water, person-to-person contact, and animals.

How does Salmonella affect chickens?

The impact of Salmonella infection on chickens depends on their age. A recent article from the Veterinary Research journal concluded that young chicks infected with Salmonella enteritidis might experience severe diseas., In younger birds, symptoms can include higher body temperature, lower immune systems, and diarrhea, leading to dehydration and eventual death if left untreated.

However, adult chickens generally don’t show any signs of infection and are unlikely to die from Salmonella bacteria. In the case of a significant Salmonella outbreak, infected adult chickens may appear weak and pale. They may also show symptoms of diarrhea, which can lead to weight loss and decreased egg production.

How does Salmonella spread among chickens?

Salmonella can be spread among a flock of chickens when contaminated insects and wild bird droppings are present in the coop in backyard chickens. In poultry farms infections may come from outside, by human carriers visiting the farm. Once the chickens come into contact with these sources, the bacteria can infect their feathers, water, and feed, perpetuating the spread of Salmonella bacteria.

Apart from this, there are other common ways Salmonella can spread among chickens. Improper food storage can increase the likelihood of contamination by infected feces, tools, or other objects, facilitating the spread of bacteria among birds.

Chickens may also come in contact with infected feces by stepping in it as they move around the house, spreading it to equipment and other surfaces. Unclean equipment and surfaces can lead to a rapid spread of Salmonella infection within the flock.

If a chicken is infected with Salmonella, the bacteria may also be present in its eggs. Any physical contact with those infected eggs could potentially spread the pathogen to other chickens. So, you should collect eggs before they become breeding grounds for bacterial growth.

How to control and prevent Salmonella in chickens

Preventing and controlling Salmonella in chickens is crucial to maintaining a strong and healthy flock. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), you can implement biosecurity measures to protect your chickens from pathogens.

The USDA’s National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) encourages producers to utilize these guidelines to develop a biosecurity plan tailored to their needs. NPIP’s  initiatives range from frequent testing of chickens to ensuring a clean living environment. These measures and other practical steps can help keep your live poultry healthy. These measures can also minimize public health concerns by preventing the transmission of Salmonella from chickens to humans.

Below is a comprehensive list of measures to help prevent and control the spread of Salmonella in your flock.

Keep fresh water and chicken feed

Fresh water and chicken feed are essential to ensure a clean and bacteria-free environment for your flock. Stagnant water can promote bacterial growth of Salmonella, and untreated feed may also carry the pathogen.

It’s important to avoid using feed that contains antibiotics, as this can lead to the development of resistant strains of Salmonella, which can be difficult to control.

Engrain’s eMax Feed Technologies offer a convenient solution.  Diets containing eMAX can be affordable and antibiotics-free, significantly reducing the risk of pathogens, such as antibiotic resistant Salmonella strains, from contaminating your flock.

Test new birds before they enter the flock

As Salmonella bacteria may spread from an infected chicken to its eggs, ensure baby chicks are free of Salmonella before introducing them to the flock.

Testing new chickens is critical to identify any that might be infected and prevent the entry of Salmonella in the first place, helping maintain a bacteria-free environment for your hatchery.

Immediately isolate ill chickens

Regular poultry testing is critical to identify any birds that might be infected with Salmonella. In addition to testing, it’s important to visually monitor your live birds for any symptoms of Salmonella infection, such as weakness, loss of appetite, and weight loss.

If you observe any symptoms, taking immediate action and isolating the affected chickens in a separate area away from the coop is essential. This can help prevent physical contact with other chickens and the potential contamination of water and feed, which can help keep the rest of your flock free of Salmonella.

Limit rodents, wild birds, and insects in the house

Rodents, wild birds, and insects can carry Salmonella bacteria, which can spread among chickens. Infected pests and animals can physically contact equipment, feed, and water and leave droppings that can transmit the bacteria.

To prevent the spread of Salmonella, take proactive measures to limit the presence of these vectors. Properly storing feed can prevent other animals from foraging for food. Keeping the coop clean can also prevent wild birds from setting up nests in the hatchery.

Furthermore, building barriers can keep animals out, and ensuring all structures — including floors and walls — are sturdy and gap-free can help prevent insects from entering the area.

In addition, you may need to set up snap traps or use other pest control methods to eliminate the presence of rodents and insects in and around the hatchery and the farm. By taking these measures, you can reduce the prevalence of Salmonella contamination in your flock.

Maintain a clean, dry, and sanitized environment

It’s essential to maintain a clean environment to prevent Salmonella from spreading. Salmonella bacteria thrive in dark, wet environments. So, all equipment — including utensils, water, and feed containers — floors, walls, and storage rooms should be kept dry, clean, and organized to control Salmonella.

In addition, have feeders and other equipment to prevent water and feed spillage that could further spread Salmonella bacteria. Proper ventilation, such as fans and cooling pads, can also prevent damp conditions, further limiting the spread of Salmonella in chickens.

Limit access of nonessential workers

The presence of nonessential workers can pose a risk of contamination to your chickens. An individual’s clothing, footwear, and vehicle may harbor strains of Salmonella, which can transfer to the chickens or indirectly to the equipment, water, and feed they come in contact with. This can facilitate the rapid spread of Salmonella among the flock.

To reduce the risk of contamination, restrict access to the farm to essential workers. Ensure workers who enter the coop area are trained in and adhere to proper hygiene practices, such as frequent hand-washing, and use hand sanitizer when necessary. They should also wear dedicated protective clothing and footwear to prevent the spread of Salmonella to the chickens and the environment.

Discover how eMax Feed Technologies can keep your chicken flock healthy

Maintaining the health and quality of your chicken flock is of the utmost importance, and the feed you provide plays a critical role in achieving this goal.

Engrain’s solutions help reduce pathogens, improve intestinal health, and reduce wet litter, which could help reduce the incidence of pathogens such as Salmonella.

Try eMax Feed Technologies today, and rest assured your chickens will receive the highest quality, nutritionally balanced feed to keep them healthy and thriving.