On-site chickens food safety requirements

When rearing and handling chickens in a food business setting (for example cafes, restaurants and aged care facilities), it is important to have a very strong focus on health and hygiene. This is because there are micro-organisms (germs), which can be spread between chickens and people can cause gastrointestinal illness.

The main micro-organisms of concern with chickens and eggs are Salmonella and Campylobacter. It is important to know that chickens can carry these germs and still appear to be healthy; therefore it is essential that everyone handling chickens and eggs follow appropriate hygiene practices.

If the business would like to sell eggs to the public, they must contact Biosecurity SA as this activity may require accreditation under their Egg Regulations.

Hygiene practices

  • Wash hands with soap and warm running water before entering the bird enclosure and after touching the birds, their food or food containers, their waste, anything in and around the area where they live and roam, and after collecting eggs.
  • Don't eat or drink around the chickens or in areas where they live and roam.
  • Keep the chickens away from areas where food and drink are prepared, served, or stored (for example kitchens or outdoor patios).
  • Do not keep or store chicken food or storage containers in or near kitchens or other food preparation areas.
  • Consider having shoes that can be cleaned and sanitised, and are kept for use in the chook house only. Do not use these shoes in other areas.
  • Use disposable gloves when cleaning the coop and its contents.
  • Do not wash the chickens' food and water bowls in sinks used for food preparation, washing kitchen utensils or for obtaining drinking water.

What to consider when keeping chickens

There are three main areas to consider when keeping chickens at a food business:

Caring for the chickens

Keeping your birds as healthy as possible will reduce the chance of them becoming sick with Salmonella and Campylobacter.

  • Source chickens that are in good health, from a reputable supplier where possible.
  • Feed your chickens with good quality feed or fresh food scraps. Do not feed the birds scraps that are old or that may be contaminated.
  • Water must be clean, fresh and easily accessible for the chickens.
  • Litter and nesting box material must be clean and replaced regularly.
  • Waste can include cracked and dirty eggs, chicken manure, old litter or old nesting material. Strict hygiene practices must be followed after handling and disposal of waste.
  • Bird health should be monitored regularly with sick or dead birds removed immediately. Ensure appropriate veterinary care is obtained when required.
  • Egg handlers must not have any signs of gastrointestinal illness as this may pass to the birds.
  • Pests such as rats, mice, stray cats and dogs, snakes and foxes will be attracted by the presence of the chickens. Ensure that the chickens and their feed are protected from the entry of pests. Implement a Pest Control Procedure and monitor pest activity. Increase pest control actions if an increase in pest activity is noted.
  • Chickens should not be allowed to roam, as they could contaminate communal areas, such as sandpits, pot plants or vegetable gardens.

Collecting the eggs

  • Collect the eggs frequently, especially in warmer weather.
  • Keep clean and uncracked eggs separate from dirty and cracked eggs.
  • Cracked eggs and excessively dirty eggs must be disposed of. Do not bring these eggs into the food preparation area.
  • Do not wash the eggs using water as it can cause further contamination.
  • Slightly dirty, uncracked eggs can be cleaned with a dry single use cloth.
  • Transfer the eggs from the collection container to a clean container before taking them to the food preparation area.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after collecting eggs.

Handling The Eggs As Food

The main things to consider in the kitchen are:

  • Cracked or excessively dirty eggs must be discarded before reaching the kitchen.
  • Slightly dirty eggs must be dry cleaned before bringing into the kitchen.
  • Do not use the egg collection container to store eggs in the kitchen.
  • Do not wash the eggs.
  • Store the eggs in a clean container in the fridge.
  • Label them with the collection date to identify them as being eggs from your own chickens. Use these eggs as quickly as possible.
  • Keep your own eggs away from ready to eat foods and separate to other eggs.
  • Only use these eggs in fully cooked foods. For instance hard boiled eggs, cakes.
  • Ensure cross contamination is minimised when using eggs for example, sanitise benches and equipment, discard egg shells immediately.
  • Food handlers must wash their hands after handling eggs.