Jenn Tompkins says it's OK for her clients to hug their chickens.

Kissing, not so much.

As the owner of Rent the Chicken, Tompkins specializes in chicken rentals for many residents in central Pennsylvania, Maryland and even part of Canada.

The service is a "one-stop shop" for customers interested in raising chickens. For a set price, customers will receive all of the supplies needed to raise the creatures.

If after a few months, you don't want to keep the chickens, Tompkins' company will collect the rental for you.

While raising chickens can be fun, they can always be hazardous.

In Pennsylvania, there have been 13 cases of salmonella reported since June. In total, 181 people around the U.S. have become ill, according to a news release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to CDC statistics, about 86 percent of those infected said they had come into contact with poultry.

To help control the small outbreak, CDC officials are asking chicken owners to be more cautious about coming into contact with their poultry.

This means no kissing.

Keep it clean: In York County, ordinances on raising chickens depend on the municipality.

Lauri Lebo, a chicken owner living in Newberry Township, where it's permitted, said raising chickens is important for her family because she gets a chance to have a local connection to her food source.

When she first started raising chickens, she came home one day to find animal prints in her house, she said.

"My husband had let them inside," she laughed. "It's nice knowing my eggs came from happy chickens."

Since then, the chickens have lived outside in their coop.

To ensure no one gets sick, Lebo regularly washes her hands. When she collects eggs, she also will wash the eggs before cooking.

In an effort to stop the outbreak, the CDC recommends poultry owners always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where the birds live and roam.

Tompkins said many of her customers treat their chickens with special love and affection, but they should not be allowed to live inside the house.

"Many spoil their chickens like they would spoil their dogs," she said. "As more people raise chickens, this is becoming more commonplace."

Chicken treats: Rent the Chicken has been in operation since 2013. Some of Tompkins' customers make treats for chickens or take them and the coop along on weekend vacations.

"It's easy to move," she joked.

For residents interested in raising chickens, she recommends reading "Fresh Eggs Daily" by Lisa Steele before investing.

"She discusses how to care for grown chickens and doesn't describe how to raise baby chicks," Tompkins said. She also urges chicken raisers to wash their hands.

"Always, always wash your hands whenever you come in contact with the chickens," she said. "That's your best source of protection."

Tompkins said none of her clients have gotten sick from raising chickens. Before making a delivery, she makes sure her clients understand what it means to raise chickens in a healthy way.

— Reach Sara Blumberg at

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