Yesterday, at our request, a representative from the Department of Agriculture came out to visit and test our chickens in conjunction with the National Poultry Improvement Program. NPIP is a voluntary program that provides testing for common ailments in home and commercial flocks. NPIP helps us to ensure a safe food supply and avoid the transfer of disease through other means (after all, taking care of chickens is not a hands-off activity here at the Flying T). In addition, it allows those who raise chickens to avoid unnecessary medicines and antibiotics. Finally, by working exclusively with NPIP-certified hatcheries and home producers, we can reduce the chances that our healthy flock is infected by birds or chicks we purchase as replacement stock.
Some of the NPIP tests are required for 4H and other shows.
The actual process is quite simple for a relatively small flock like ours (23 birds)… or at least it should be. First, you need to make sure they’re contained. To accomplish this, we simply turned off the coop’s automatic door after the chickens had gone to roost for the night. Simple, right?
However, about an hour before the NPIP representative arrived, our son went to change the chickens’ water, and six of them slipped out the door. The three kids and I had a heck of a time chasing them down. Free range means no fences, and lots of places for them to hide, squeeze under, and run through. It also means that trying to entice them back into the coop with grain doesn’t work well, because there are lots of other, more tasty things to sample out in the woods. However, after a bit of running, diving, and even climbing the compost pile, we managed to get our escapees back into the coop. Unfortunately, I hadn’t anticipated the exercise, and so I have no pictures to share. They would’ve been worth sharing!
OK, it is a simple process, once you’ve got the chickens back in the coop!
We enlisted the kids to help, and they crammed into the grain room along with the NPIP tester, Tara. One kid would go into the coop and pick up a chicken, then bring it out to Tara, who would start by banding their legs with a numbered tag (for our older chickens, this also required removing their previous NPIP tags).
Then, she turned them onto their backs, and plucked the feathers from a small area under the wing.
A quick scratch with a scalpel to draw blood, a few drops in a plastic vial, and the chickens were released to go .
Within about an hour and a half, the vials were filled and the process was complete. Tara said that she recently did a flock of 250 birds, and that took all day (with several helpers).
The chickens were none the worse for wear (though they were a bit indignant).
We should get our NPIP renewal certificate in the mail in a few weeks!