The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) warns citizens that incorrectly handling live poultry, including chicks and ducklings, can cause serious illnesses, and MDA strongly discourages citizens from buying chicks as presents for children during Easter celebrations.

“We ask people to think twice before bringing baby chicks and other live poultry into their homes. The risk of illness from improper handling is much higher this time of year, especially among people not used to handling live birds,” said Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “Anyone with poultry should practice heightened biosecurity to prevent diseases like bird flu from entering their flock.”

Tips for Handling Live Poultry

Contact with live poultry can be a source of human Salmonella infections, which can cause a diarrheal illness in people that ranges from mild to life threatening. Each spring, chicks are specially hatched in large quantities and then shipped around the country – a practice that makes them much more prone to disease. The Maryland Department of Agriculture joins the Centers for Disease Control in recommending against buying chicks for children as Easter presents. For those who choose to purchase chicks, however, here are some tips:

  • Purchase chickens only from hatcheries that are certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) 
  • Be aware that chicks and other live poultry can appear healthy and clean while carrying Salmonella germs. 
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after touching live poultry or anything in the area where poultry live and roam. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
  • Do not allow children younger than age 5, elderly persons, or people with weak immune systems handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry.
  • Clean any equipment or materials associated with raising or caring for live poultry outside the house, such as cages or feed or water containers.
  • Don’t let live poultry inside the house, in bathrooms, or especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens, or outdoor patios.
  • Don’t snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your mouth, or eat or drink around live poultry.

Even if the chicks are handled properly, parents should give serious thought to what they will do with the chicks after the holiday and if they are prepared to raise a chicken. For “6 Steps to Keeping Poultry Healthy,” see: Also note that any backyard flock owners with five or more birds must register their location with MDA so that the agency can contact them immediately when a potential disease is identified. To register your flock, see:

For more information about Salmonella risks and handling chicks this spring, see: