A Busy Morning

At 7:30 this morning a woman from the state agriculture department drove up, pulled on protective gear and booties, and tested my flock for two serious poultry diseases, Salmonella pullorum and avian influenza. It’s Massachusetts state law that birds that are transported anywhere off the premises must be tested. It’s a free program.

We were ready for her. The chickens were inside and easy to catch. Lily Dog said that she was a blue-suited alien, but after a couple of tossed cookies, decided that blue-suited aliens are fine with her.

The procedure is a simple prick of the skin under a wing, and then the blood is collected in a vial. It’s a bit messy, but not a big deal for the hen. You might notice some blood on the girls today. Don’t worry about them!

Each hen gets a silver band to prove that she’s been tested. It’s rather like a rabies tag for your dog.

Because it’s been so rainy and muddy and the girls have been stuck inside, they were a bit dirtier than normal. The state tech had on her blue suit. I had on my jeans. After she left, I decided that I might as well clean the barns. When I came inside, my pants and jacket went right into the wash. So, that’s one clothing change for the day. I’ve a feeling it won’t be the last…


  1. I have to admit as I starting reading the blog my Irish temper started to rise. I was thinking man a test on a backyard flock, the gov’t is going too far, stay out of my yard!!! As I finished it made more sense. Still think it’s a bit of over kill but as long as “they” (well actully tax payers) pay for it so be it.

  2. This test is just for birds that you take with you places? Ones that stay home don’t need it? If there are contagious bird diseases, then that makes a certain amount of sense!

    • Backyard chicken keepers don’t bother with this. It’s in place for people who take their birds to shows. That protects everyone from a contagious bird (or at least gives some protection – there’s no guarantees, and it doesn’t test for everything.) 4-H shows require these tests, too. Since I cross state lines with my girls, and take them to schools, I wanted to be “legal.”

  3. How often do they test and how long does it take to get results? If a chicken ever tests positive, who is notified?
    Do they only test the travelers?

    • Hylla, very good questions, and much to my chagrin, I don’t know the answers to all of them. It takes less than a week to get the test results, via email, from a lab the state contracts with in Connecticut. It takes another week to get the formal “traveling” papers. I’m sure that if there was avian influenza, that everyone would get involved. As far as I know, there’s never been a recorded case of AI in the country. It would be a very big and serious situation if it was here. I don’t know what they do about the salmonella pullorum, but I will find out! They take blood samples from the entire flock and have the tests done on 2/3 of them.

    • I’ve got a few answers for you. Flocks are to be tested yearly. If the flock tests positive it is not a matter of public record, but the state would notify APHIS if it’s an AI case.

  4. I just can’t believe the tiny-ness of that foot! My lot’s look like velociraptor feet.
    You’ve probably heard about all the AI business in the UK, with a huge and disgusting large scale turkey operation in Norfolk being the hub of the last outbreak. All the birds were incinerated, and not all of them were dead at the time. I think Salmonella testing here only came in in the late sixties/ early seventies, but people just knew to cook eggs properly and not feed undercooked eggs to invalids or pregnant women (as I was taught at school).
    Unless your flock is more than 50-strong you don’t need to register with DEFRA (Dept of Environment, food and rural affairs) and therefore don’t need to be tested, but can only sell eggs to the end-user. So me selling mine at the gate is fine, but I can’t supply the local shop.
    I think only AI and Newcastle disease are ‘notifiable’ here in the UK.

    • I didn’t realize that DEFRA was only for the larger producers. That makes much more sense that our regulations! The government really doesn’t take into consideration the small flock owner.
      BTW, salmonella pullorum is not a salmonella that affects people. Like fowl typhoid, is used to be a major cause of chick mortality at hatcheries. These two tests are to protect the poultry industry, not the end consumer.
      Here in the USA, the states have a lot of control over agriculture. It varies state by state. Where I live, if you follow the letter of the law, you’re not supposed to even give a hen to a friend if your flock isn’t tested. Obviously, the laws were written with a focus on commercial agriculture.

      • That’s interesting, Terry. That’s probably why some hatcheries test for pullorum. Thanks for the answers to my questions above Wendy’s post, too. Avian Influenza is a cry we hope to never hear.
        By the way, a writer engaged to speak on chickens and egg cooking doesn’t need to be tested at all. You don’t even need a visa or shots to come to California.

        • You know you are going to wear me down and I’ll be out there yet! I could take the talk that I did at the Wild Center anywhere that allows me to plug in my Mac (I’ve got great slides!)

          • Yeay. I know you’ll be glad so whenever you’re ready to plan, we’ll have a lot of people lining up to meet you and you’re welcome to borrow a Tillie understudy.