National Poultry Improvement Plan
Here is a wonderful program that most everybody seems terrified of. If you ask people about it, they seem reluctant to give you any information. People seem to shy away from it because it is a government program and you have to have government people come to your property to do testing on your birds. People think of it as just one more way for the government to get involved in and control our business. We too were scared of it until we learned the facts.
Granted, each state is different in the way they conduct their NPIP program but it is a federal project and therefore should not be much different from state to state. I can only tell you about our experience and how pleasantly surprised we were.
NPIP, National Poultry Improvement Program, is a federal program with the sole intent of testing poultry for Pullorum and Typhoid. They will also test for diseases such as Mareks, Exotic Newcastle and Avian Influenza. Trust me, you don't want any of these and if you do have them then you don't want the birds and you certainly would not want to be responsible for the spread of these diseases.
The biggest fear that people have is that if the government comes out to test your birds and one or more come back positive that you will have to destroy your flock. Let me just say that if your birds have Pullorum or Typhoid you will want to be destroying your flock and you will want to do it faster than the government.
Both Pullorum and Typhoid are extremely rare in the United States. Both diseases are usually brought into the US by outside sources where someone smuggles birds or eggs into the country illegally. But they both spread very rapidly and have the potential for wiping out a good portion of the population of the nations birds.
I don't think that you could feel good about yourself if it was your birds that caused the next Typhoid outbreak.
Prior to having our birds tested, I scoured the internet for people who had gone through the process and tried to gleen as much information as possible which was little to none. But I also knew that if we were going to move forward then we were going to have to be tested. To us, our birds are our pets. We have at least 70 birds that are named and many of them will come and sit with you or come in the house on occasion and like with any pet, how could we face the fact of having to put them down if the testing did not come back in our favor. I called our State Department of Agriculture. I talked with different agriculture agents. I had different agencies send as much information as possible which I really didn't want to do because then they had our address and I was envisioning men dressed in white lab coats peering over our fences with binoculars and notepads trying to figure out how they could destroy our birds. Boy, I couldn't have been any farther from the truth.
I finally got up the nerve to call our Department of Agriculture Poultry Specialist and tell her who I was and what we were looking to do. She was the nicest lady and reassured me that her department was not out to destroy my birds or turn me into other authorities because we kept poultry. She assured me that her department didn't care whether or not I was even supposed to have poultry where we live. Their only concern was that the poultry that I had was healthy and clear of these diseases.
But this is the government we are talking about. They always seem to get into your business one way or another. After all, they are all interconnected right? So I was still very scepticle. She gave me the number for our local poultry inspector and wanted me to contact him directly to set up a time to come out. Oh great, now two government officials were going to now have our number and address. So again I held off. I wanted to talk with a local inspector that we had seen many times at our local livestock auction. We only knew each other by face so I figured it was safe to talk with him. I gleened as much information from him as possible about how they test and what they look for when they are on your property. He was not an actual poultry inspector but had assisted on several testings. I still could not get a diffinitive answer as to what they look for or what was needed from me personally to pass the testing.
My thoughts and basic information had led me to believe that I had to have a closed flock, wash down facilities, immaculate pens, disenfectant and sanitizer at every possible area, show ready birds, plastic gloves and booties and complete documentation for each bird, and not a sniffle or sneeze from the whole flock.
Now granted, our birds are very well cared for, hence our name, but they are production birds and kept on dirt in fairly large screened pens. We have many birds that are kept in a very large common pen. Their pens are raked out at least once a week. Waterers are cleaned and disenfected at least once a week. They are fed quality feed and so on. But was that going to be enough?
I am still envisioning multiple inspectors running around taking soil samples, air samples and water and feed samples. I was driving myself crazy.
I got up the nerve to bite the bullet one morning and called our local inspector. I was shaking the whole time I was talking to him. He was a really nice guy but was straight to the point. He asked me how many birds we had. That was it, just how many birds we had. He set a test date for the following week. OK, that didn't help to ease my fears. So before he came out on that fateful day, I made sure everything was as in order as I could possibly have it. I even made a promise to all our birds that if they behaved themselves and nobody as much as sneezed then they would get an extra helping of scratch that day.
Well the day came with the inspector arriving at 8am. I was out there to greet him as he drove in the drive. And it was just one inspector and he wasn't even wearing a white coat. But I was still anticipating a large white van to pull in any moment with the rest of the inspectors on board but it never happened. We exchanged pleasantries and I started in with the questions. What did he need from me? What did he need from the birds? On and On and On I went. He just kept smiling. I figured this guy has heard all this a million times before. Once I stopped rambling he got down to his list of questions for me. He asked again how many birds we had, if there was a fairly level spot where he could set up a table and if he could get a small glass of water. That was it for his questions. Actually he asked one more question, how many birds did I want tested? What, he isn't going to test them all?
I helped him with his table and led him to our poultry yard. He commented on how he liked our set up. He decided that out of all our birds he would take a random sampling from each pen and also our main yard. He got his testing supplies out and we brought the first bird. A quick poke of the vein under the wing, a drop of blood to test with, a quick swap of the mouth and the first bird was done. He was testing as fast as my wife and I could bring him birds. We tested 25 birds out of our flock in about a half hours time. The birds were done. I am thinking, OK now comes the real part, all the coop inspections. He never went in the coops. He was finished except for some paperwork. He packed up his stuff and we went back out to his truck. It was after the testing that I could get him to open up a bit. The testing for Pullorum - Typhoid all was negative. Now he would send off the swabs for testing for the other diseases. They only do a random sampling because if one bird has it then it has usually spread to other birds fairly quickly. They take a general look around just to make sure the birds are being cared for and that there are not excessively dirty or unsafe conditions. They watch for parasites as they lift the wing for testing. Other than that, they just look for general good health of the birds. It's a quick and simple process.
The inspectors will also offer suggestions of things that you could do to better improve the quality of life for your birds if there is something quite obvious that you are neglecting. But they are really just there to test the birds for potentially deadly diseases that could wipe out not only your flock but also the nations flock. I asked the inspector how often a positive result comes up. He said that in all his years of testing, he has never seen a positive result. That is not saying that there never is one, he just had never seen one. I asked him what is the procedure for if they do come up with a positive result. If anything comes back positive, then they will schedule another visit and try to narrow down which bird or birds showed a positive result. From those birds, they will take further blood sampling to varify the results. If there is still a positive result then the bird or birds in question will be have to be destroyed by you or by them, preferably by them so that they can dispose of the carcass in a healthy manner. Then retesting is done every couple of months to see if any other birds come back positive. Once you are tested clean then it goes to the standard once a year testing.
These inspectors are here for one purpose and that is to keep our nations poultry population safe. They are not out to shut you down or turn you in for having poultry where you shouldn't. They are not out to get you. All my fears were certainly unfounded. This is a completely voluntary program and in most states it is free to have the testing done. It is well worth it to you and to all of us to have your birds tested once a year. It is quick and simple.
The advantage to this is that you have peace of mind that your birds are not going to be responsible for spreading a deadly disease. You will also be able to legally ship and transport eggs, chicks and birds across state lines. You will also be able to show your birds. And you will be able to confidently be able to tell a prospective buyer that you are NPIP certified.
So put away your fears and get your birds tested, you will be happy you did.