Can you eat eggs from sick chicken?

Quick Answer

It is generally not recommended to eat eggs from chickens that are sick. While the risk is low, eggs from sick chickens can potentially contain pathogens that could make you ill. If you know your chickens are sick, it’s best to discard their eggs until they have fully recovered.

Can Eggs From Sick Chickens Make You Sick?

While the chances of getting sick from eating eggs from sick chickens is low, there is a potential risk. Here are some key points:

  • Many common poultry diseases cannot be transmitted through eggs, including avian influenza and Newcastle disease.
  • However, a small number of illnesses like salmonella and mycoplasma can potentially contaminate eggs if the hen is infected.
  • An egg’s shell and membranes provide a good barrier of protection, but bacteria can sometimes penetrate inside the egg if the hen’s reproductive tract is infected.
  • Proper cooking and handling of eggs will kill any potential bacteria present. But consuming raw or undercooked eggs increases your risk.

So while eggs from sick chickens rarely cause illness, the potential risk depends on the specific illness involved and proper cooking/handling precautions should be taken.

What Illnesses Can Be Spread Through Eggs?

Here are some of the main poultry diseases that can potentially be spread through eggs, though the risks are generally very low:


Salmonella infection is probably the biggest concern with eggs from sick chickens. Salmonella bacteria can sometimes be present inside eggs if the hen’s reproductive tract is infected.

  • Salmonella is found in the feces of infected chickens. Laying hens can become infected through contact with rodents, wild birds, or feces-contaminated areas.
  • Infected hens pass the bacteria into the egg before the shell forms. The bacteria can survive inside the uncracked, whole egg.
  • Symptoms of salmonella food poisoning include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps starting 12-72 hours after eating a contaminated egg.
  • Proper cooking kills salmonella bacteria present inside eggs. Avoiding consumption of raw or undercooked eggs can prevent illness.

Mycoplasma Gallisepticum

Mycoplasma gallisepticum is a common poultry respiratory disease that can spread to internal organs and the reproductive system.

  • Infected hens can pass mycoplasma bacteria into the egg inside the ovaries before the shell hardens.
  • Mycoplasma mainly poses a risk to other birds through egg transmission. Humans are less susceptible but potential symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat.
  • Proper cooking is recommended as a precaution but the risks to humans are fairly low.

E. coli

Certain strains of E. coli bacteria can infect chickens and potentially contaminate eggs, though this is uncommon.

  • Laying hens may become infected with E. coli through contaminated feed, water, litter, or rodents.
  • It does not typically spread to the reproductive organs to infect eggs internally. More commonly, egg shells may become contaminated from feces.
  • Potential symptoms in humans include stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever.

Proper egg cleaning and cooking reduce the risks.

Chicken anemia virus

Chicken anemia virus suppresses the immune system in birds but generally does not cause illness in humans.

  • Infected eggs contain traces of the virus internally but it is not known to pose a risk to human health.
  • The virus can reduce immunity in newly hatched chicks when transmitted through eggs.

Overall, while several poultry illnesses can potentially be spread through eggs, salmonella is the most significant concern. The actual risk to human health is very low, especially with proper handling and cooking.

Should You Throw Out Eggs From a Sick Chicken?

It’s generally recommended to discard eggs from chickens that you know are sick. Here’s why:

  • It eliminates any small risk of transmitting illness through the eggs.
  • You avoid taking a chance on eating contaminated eggs accidentally raw or undercooked.
  • Removing and disposing of eggs can help prevent spread between chickens on your property.
  • Once illness has run its course, new eggs will not be contaminated.

However, if proper precautions are taken, the risks from eating eggs from sick chickens are extremely low in most cases. If you wish to keep the eggs:

  • Cook eggs thoroughly until both yolks and whites are solid. Do not consume raw or undercooked eggs.
  • Discard any eggs with cracked or damaged shells, as bacteria may have entered.
  • Refrigerate eggs immediately after gathering to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Sanitize any surfaces that came into contact with the shell by washing with soap and hot water.

Using these precautions and proper handling procedures, the chances of illness are very remote.

How Long Should You Wait Before Eating Eggs Again?

After your chickens have recovered from illness, how long should you wait before eating their eggs again? Here are some general guidelines:

  • Salmonella – Wait at least 2-3 weeks after symptoms resolve before collecting eggs for consumption again. Salmonella bacteria can persist for a while after chickens recover.
  • Mycoplasma – Wait 1-2 weeks after symptoms disappear. Mycoplasma bacteria tend to clear from the reproductive system more quickly.
  • E. coli – Wait 1 week after symptoms resolve. E. coli typically clears quickly on its own.
  • Viral illnesses – It’s reasonable to start consuming the eggs again as soon as symptoms clear up. Viruses like chicken anemia virus and avian influenza don’t tend to be present internally.

Always ensure that your birds have fully recovered before allowing their eggs into the kitchen again. Check that they are bright, alert and active, with normal eating habits resumed.

Can You Tell if Eggs Are Contaminated?

Unfortunately there is no reliable way for the average person to tell if an egg is contaminated or not. Here are some facts:

  • You can’t determine if bacteria like salmonella are present just by cracking open an egg. Infected eggs look normal.
  • Candling eggs only allows you to assess development or the size of the air cell – not bacterial contamination.
  • Dirty or odd-looking eggshells may indicate higher risk but bacteria could still be inside a normal looking egg.
  • Lab testing would be required to specifically detect pathogens like salmonella inside eggs.

For these reasons, caution should be taken with eggs from sick flocks by cooking them thoroughly. When in doubt, it’s best to discard the eggs.

Tips For Preventing Contamination

Here are some tips to help keep your home eggs free of illness-causing bacteria like salmonella:

  • Maintain clean coops/runs by removing manure, uneaten food, and replacing litter regularly.
  • Disinfecting housing between new flocks helps kill lingering bacteria.
  • Keep wild birds, rodents, insects, and other pests away from housing areas.
  • Purchase birds from reputable sources and quarantine new arrivals for 4 weeks.
  • Avoid introducing sick birds or exposing your flock to others’ birds.
  • Collect eggs frequently and don’t let them sit in nests.
  • Immediately refrigerate clean eggs in a dedicated carton marked with collection date.
  • Spot clean dirty eggs with fine sandpaper or emery board instead of washing.
  • Isolate and treat any birds showing signs of illness promptly.

Following sound biosecurity practices is the best way to keep your flock healthy and produce safe, high-quality eggs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get salmonella from eating eggs from chickens with salmonella?

Yes, there is a very small risk of salmonella transmitting inside the egg if the hen is infected. However, fully cooking eggs kills any bacteria present. The risk is extremely low if proper handling and cooking procedures are followed.

Should you refrigerate eggs from sick chickens?

Yes, it’s important to refrigerate any eggs from sick chickens right away, even if you plan to cook them thoroughly or discard them. Refrigeration prevents any potential bacterial growth both on the shell surface and inside the eggs.

Can you eat eggs from chickens treated with antibiotics?

Yes, eggs from chickens treated with antibiotics for illnesses like mycoplasma or E. coli are safe for consumption. Make sure you complete the full treatment course as directed before collecting eggs again. Antibiotic residue is not a concern for egg consumption.

Do all chicken diseases spread through eggs?

No, many common poultry illnesses like avian influenza, coccidiosis, infectious bronchitis, and Newcastle disease do not pass through the egg from an infected hen. Only a handful of illnesses like salmonella have the potential for egg transmission.

Can you eat eggs from chickens with bird flu?

Avian influenza viruses are not transmitted through properly handled and cooked eggs, so they can be safely consumed. However, it’s still a good idea not to eat eggs from birds infected with highly pathogenic bird flu as a precaution.

Can dirty eggs from sick chickens make you sick?

Yes, eggs with dirt, feces, or mud on the shell from sick chickens can potentially cause illness if bacteria penetrates the shell and contaminates the interior. It’s best to thoroughly clean soiled eggs right away with fine sandpaper or a emery board and then refrigerate.

The Bottom Line

It’s generally recommended to avoid consuming eggs from chickens you know are sick as a precaution. The actual risks are very low, especially with proper cooking and handling. But when in doubt, it’s better to be safe and discard eggs from ill birds. If you need to keep the eggs, make sure to cook them thoroughly until firm and follow good hygiene practices when handling them raw. With some common sense, you can enjoy fresh eggs from your backyard flock without worry.

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