Yard chickens are very trendy right now, including at houses in-town, but Mainers are being warned about the dangers of salmonella poisoning.

There are plenty of advantages to having yard birds. Chickens will eat fleas and ticks, so it lessens the chances of picking them up yourself when you're out in the yard. Of course, they produce fresh eggs. And they're fun to watch!

But there are also dangers involved in having live chickens, the biggest risk being salmonella. According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, chickens carry salmonella on their beaks, in their droppings, on their feathers and their feet. But the contamination goes everywhere, from the hay to the coops and everything else they touch. And everything their feathers or droppings touch.

For this reason, experts advise being smart about how your chickens are handled. Don't snuggle or pet them, as you would a domestic animal. Never let them in your house, because their feathers will spread the germs everywhere. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after any contact with anything that may have come in contact with the birds. And keep hand sanitizer handy, in case you can't wash your hands immediately after coming in contact with exposed surfaces.

Symptoms of Salmonella poisoning include nausea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps. The infection can be serious enough to send people to the hospital, especially young children or the elderly.

For more information on avoiding salmonella poisoning with yard birds, log onto the website for the Maine CDC.