I have recent experience raising chickens while pregnant. Since it was my first pregnancy, I wasn’t sure if there were any special safety concerns with raising chickens during this time.
I did a bit of research and found that the short answer is yes, it’s safe to continue to raise backyard chickens while pregnant. However, I would like to share my experiences with any other expecting momma’s out there so that you can know how I managed my flock during 40 weeks of pregnancy.
Just a note, this post is not medical advice (I’m not a doctor)! I’m sharing with you my experiences of raising chickens while pregnant. I’m a bit “crunchy” too, so there’s that. 😉
Cleaning the Coop While Pregnant
The safest option is to not clean the coop during pregnancy.
The dust from chicken droppings that is found in coops can irritate your nose and potentially lead to respiratory issues for a pregnant woman. Pregnant women are said to have a weakened immune system and should take care to not put themselves in a situation where they could be exposed to something that makes them sick.
Chicken coops do not need to be deep cleaned regularly.
Your chickens’ health will not be negatively impacted if you don’t do a deep cleaning of their coop while pregnant.
As long as your chickens have adequate amounts of bedding and there are no broken eggs, the chickens will do a good job of scratching their droppings up into the bedding and keeping their coop in good shape.
Some people will do a deep cleaning of their coop once a year where they remove all bedding and replace it with fresh bedding. I have never done this. We just add more pine shavings on top and call it good.
If you find the coop is in need of maintenance add more pine shavings to prolong the time between deep cleanings of the coop.
In addition, the smell of the chicken poop can make morning sickness worse for some women.
I personally had horrible morning sickness (it was actually more like 24/7 sickness) that lasted the first 5 months of pregnancy. I could not handle the smell of certain spices let alone the smell of chicken poop which made me gag.
If you feel like the chicken coop needs a good cleaning during your 9 months of pregnancy and cannot wait until after you’ve had your baby, delegate the task of cleaning the coop to someone else to make sure you don’t expose yourself to any unnecessary filth that could impact your respiratory system or make your morning sickness worse.
Handling Chickens While Pregnant
It’s generally safe to pet or handle your chickens while pregnant. The key is to make sure you wash your hands with soap and water afterwards (like you should be doing anyway).
Chickens can carry diseases that are transferrable to humans. However, backyard chickens from closed flocks tend to be more healthy than factory chickens.
Backyard chickens have better living conditions than factory chickens due to:
- less chickens per square foot
- access to fresh feed and water at all times so they are in better overall health
- less chickens for the keeper to watch, making it easier to watch for any sickness in chickens
- overall treatment of chickens like family pets
The best thing you can do while handling chickens while pregnant is to wash your hands with soap and water afterwards. This is a good practice to be doing whether you are pregnant or not!
Hand sanitizer is not recommended since it will not remove any potential bacteria from chicken droppings.
When you research this topic online, you will find many scary stories of illness being passed from chickens to their keepers. Like most things on the internet, this is blown out of proportion to the actual reality.
Pregnant women have been caring for chickens for hundreds of years. Think of the farmers’ wives that would raise their chickens alongside their children. Pregnant women raising chickens is not a new experience and has been done successfully for generations.
Eating Fresh Eggs While Pregnant
It is safe to eat fresh eggs from backyard chickens while pregnant.
Eggs from backyard chickens are no less safe than the eggs that are bought in a grocery store. The main concern you will see online is related to eggs with salmonella.
For an egg to carry salmonella, it must be exposed to the bacteria Salmonella enteritidis. If you practice good flock management (meaning your chickens are healthy, have plenty of clean bedding, continual supply of fresh water, good diet, don’t poop in the nesting boxes, came from a reputable hatchery, etc.), then the chances of your chickens being infected with this bacteria are relatively small.
The best practices to follow for eggs from backyard chickens is to:
- collect eggs daily
- keep nesting boxes clean
- discard broken eggs
- wash eggs before eating
- ensure eggs are cooked thoroughly before eating
If you find eggs that have poop on them, it might make you feel better to discard these eggs during pregnancy.
Before I got pregnant, we would just wash off dirty eggs and eat them like normal. When I got pregnant, we would discard dirty eggs just to be 100% sure. I don’t think this was necessary, but it gave us peace of mind and we also had plenty of clean eggs from our chickens to eat.
Eggs are high in protein which is a necessary nutrient for pregnant women.
One egg contains about 7 grams of highly absorbable protein. Protein requirements during pregnancy vary anywhere from 45 grams to 100 grams per day.
There have been studies conducted that show chickens raised in a backyard or free-range setting have more nutrients in their eggs than chickens raised in a factory. This is due to backyard chickens being fed a more diverse diet that includes insects, seeds, plants, and kitchen scraps. (For an interesting read on the natural diet of chickens, check out this post.)
In addition to protein, eggs contain other vital nutrients for a pregnant woman, including vitamins D3 and B12, choline, and iron.
With their high levels of protein, eggs can help ease a pregnant woman’s morning sickness. Unfortunately, when I was pregnant I could not stand the smell or tase of eggs so I had to rely on other natural remedies for my morning sickness.
Raising Baby Chicks While Pregnant
While you can raise chicks while pregnant, I would not recommend it.
My reason why I would not raise chicks while pregnant is that chicks require more interaction than adult chickens.
When our chickens were babies, we would handle them frequently to get them used to people. They were bought from a reputable hatchery; however, we still did not know if they could have had a disease since they were very new to us.
We had one chick get a poopy butt where the poop had dried on her butt feathers, almost blocking her vent. We had to wash this chick’s bottom off in the sink with warm water to get the poop unstuck. This is not something a pregnant woman should probably do since it’s exposing her directly to chicken poop.
In addition, I would not introduce new adult chickens to your flock during pregnancy because you don’t know what diseases they might come with from their previous home. Typically, with your flock of adult chickens that you’ve had for a while, you know their overall health and any issues.
Not raising chicks or introducing new chickens to your flock are my recommendations for pregnant women solely based on my experience. Pregnancy was hard enough for me and I didn’t want to add any additional stress to my life during that time!
Benefits of Raising Chickens While Pregnant
There are both physical and mental benefits of raising chickens while pregnant.
First, one of the obvious physical benefits you get from chickens come in the form of the nutrients you get from their eggs. However, there are other physical benefits you can get from backyard chickens: exercise and fresh air.
When I was pregnant, I would walk around the backyard for the little bit of exercise I could handle and would hang out with my chickens.
Walking is great exercise for pregnant women since it elevates the heart rate just enough and is not over strenuous.
The fresh air is another great benefit. Since I was so sick during my pregnancy, I was pretty much inside most of the time. A few minutes here and there of being outside with my chickens was rejuvenating.
A mental benefit of raising chickens is that they are great entertainment and watching their antics can help with reducing stress.
“Chicken TV” is great entertainment while pregnant and helps to minimize some of emotional lows that can be prevalent during pregnancy (and postpartum).
Watching chickens and their antics and interactions with each other can provide hours of endless entertainment. Looking at something other than a screen is great way to minimize stress.
Overall, raising chickens in your backyard during pregnancy is perfectly safe. There are a few extra precautions you might want to take, such as delegating coop cleaning to someone else or delaying it until after your baby is born. Keep in mind to wash your hands with soap and water after handling chickens (which should be done anyway). Practice good management of your eggs and make sure to thoroughly cook eggs before eating.