NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - There's a growing popularity of raising backyard chickens for both eggs and meat.
State health officials aren't discouraging the practice, but they say the risk for salmonella exposure is increasing. East Texas News visited with a local grower to learn about some of the precautions taken around live poultry.
Near Chireno, Angela Schrader has been raising backyard chickens for about a year.
"The black rooster I call him big boy. He's more curious, more gentle," Schrader said. "Red likes to be a little more aggressive. Be nice."
Well behaved hens provide a daily egg hunt.
"They send me searching everyday when it's time to gather eggs," Schrader said.
It's a ritual Schrader conducts in a timely fashion to help prevent the spread of salmonella.
"Salmonella thrives in an environment where if they're left in the heat the internal temperature has to reach 102 and salmonella can double every 20 minutes," Schrader said.
Schrader doesn't stop there.
"Wipe them off with a Clorox wipes. Dry 'em real good," Schrader said. "And then they go right into a clean carton and straight into the refrigerator."
It's the kind of precautions the State Health Department advises following an ongoing salmonella outbreak. It sickened at least 316 people in 37 states. At least 32 people in Texas have gotten sick.
That is something Schrader doesn't want for her two boys who are already fighting a serious disease.
"Both my boys were born with Hirschsprung's disease," Schrader said. "They only have 1/2 of their small intestines. Natural is the best for them and best for their tummies. Store bought eggs make them very sick so I found that the eggs that my chickens lay they can eat and it doesn't bother them at all."
It's just one of the reasons why the popularity of backyard chickens is growing. Another is those little chicks you find in the feed stores are just so cute. This leads to impulse buys. Consumers should first learn the common sense steps in preventing bacteria before bringing live poultry home.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traced the national outbreak to a hatchery in New Mexico. However, precautions should be taken with poultry from any source.