In 2009 our flock became certified by the the Illinois Department of Agriculture into the National Poultry Improvement Plan. The NPIP program was started in the early 1930's and aimed at eliminating pullorum and Typhoid from commercial poultry. Pullorum is an egg transmitted disease that is caused by Salmenella Pullorum, that kills 60 to 80 percent of baby poultry. Typhoid is also an egg transmitted disease caused by Salmonella gallinarum and will cause high mortality rate in both baby poultry and adult birds.
We wanted our flock tested and certified in order to ship our chicks and pullets through the US Postal Service. There are many other diseases that poultry can carry but these are the two disease we test for annually.
Every year in the month of October we are required to have our poultry tested and re-certified. The Illinois Department of Agriculture came to the farm and performed our first test back in 2009. On the first initial test every bird on the farm was tested, at that time we had many quail, chickens and turkeys, it was a huge job. Larry and I were required to catch every bird and bring it to the State tester, he would test the bird, once the bird was tested it needed to be kept in an area so it wasn't mixed back in with the untested. After our first testing Larry and I chose to take classes to became certified testers ourselves so that we're able to test our own flock. We're also certified testers for the Illinois Department of Agriculture and can test flocks for them if we choose to. Once our flock was certified, the following year we we're only required to test 10 percent if we have over 300 birds.
Testing box, bottle of antigen, and bleeder loopThe type of testing we do is the rapid whole blood plate agglutination. Whole blood is taken from the bird and mixed with the stained pullorum organism. Before we begin the testing we need to order the testing Pullorum antigen from the Department of Agriculture, each bottle of antigen is numbered so you need a new bottle every year.
To begin testing we catch the bird, lay it on it's back, pull some feathers from under the wing to obtain a clear view of a vain. Once you have a vain, you stick the bird with a devise called a bleeding loop, it has a sharp point on one end and a loop on the other end. It only takes a small stick with the bleeder and you will have a drop of blood, then pick up the blood with the loop end.
Blood is then tested with a light box, this is basically a plastic or wood box with a light bulb under white glass. The white glass is sectioned off into 1 inch squares with a permanent marker. A drop of antigen is placed on each square. The drop of blood is mixed into the antigen. The antigen will look clumped or stick together if you have a bird testing positive for Pullorum or Typhoid. If no clumpiness then the bird is negative.
This is a very timely and costly project if you aren't qualified to test your own birds. That is one reason few farms are NPIP certified. If a breeding farm is unwilling to take the time and effort to become NPIP I suggest you shop else where. This is for the safety of the entire poultry industry.
Part of being Certified NPIP means we are unable to allow visitors around or in our barns. We enjoy having our customers visit the farm but it's always difficult to explain why they can't go and see the breeders they travel so far to see. It's simply for the safety of our flock and theirs. If you come for a visit sometime don't be offended when we tell you that you will need to look form a distance, it's not you, it's just bio-security. Keep in mind, we go to great lengths to raise the healthiest birds possible.
If your a poultry breeder and plan on shipping birds across the US, be a responsible breeder and become certified, don't put the poultry industry at risk.
Have a great day!