What is NPIP?
The National Poultry Improvement Plan was established in the early 1930's to provide a cooperative industry, state, and federal program through which new diagnostic technology can be effectively applied to the improvement of poultry and poultry products throughout the country. (Description taken from Poultryimprovement.org)
Today the NPIP program is available to commercial growers and hatcheries as well as backyard growers and breeders. For back yard growers and breeders participation is optional and 100% voluntary. Since I reside in the state of Georgia where the NPIP headquarters is located, I will use Georgia's NPIP rules for this blog.
NPIP is a requirement to legally ship hatching eggs, live chicks and poultry across state lines.
Making the appointment....
Most chicken owners I have spoken with about NPIP have a lot of misconceptions about the program as well as concerns regarding their flocks. I had the same concerns before I committed to joining the program.
First, NPIP is not out to get you or your flocks. Yes it is a federal program however they are unconcerned with how you want to breed your birds or if you want to eat your birds. Their primary focus is testing for 2 specific (in some states just 1) diseases that can have huge impacts and economic losses to the poultry industry. Avian influenza and Pullorum Typhoid.
Another concern is that your property, coops and runs will be judged and can weigh heavily against you when joining the program. This is a misconception. While everyone keeping chickens should practice proper poultry husbandry, your tester is not going to take or kill all your birds because they don't like how you built your coop. If they notice something that is of concern such as empty waters, feeders or excessive feces buildup in the coops then they will give a friendly and courteous reminder to ensure you are doing everything to keep your flocks healthy.
When your ready to make an appointment for testing call your local NPIP office to schedule. Most states have a limited number of testers and so appointments can be booked out a few months. It took us 4 months to get our first appointment. I would suggest making an early morning appointment so you can keep your birds cooped up, making it easier to catch them for testing.
It does not hurt to prepare for your appointment the day before. Do things like refill waters, clean coops, fill feeders, oyster shell and grit bowls. Make sure each coop is easy to access to catch the birds and that any debris or clutter is removed making the test area clean and safe for you, your tester and your birds. If you have a small table such a camping table, have it ready and disinfected. Some testers bring their own tables, others appreciate an area set up to put the testing equipment when they arrive.
When your tester(s) arrive they will put on a brand new pair of disposable coveralls, thick bio security boot covers, hair net and gloves. They are responsible for not bringing in any possible diseases to your property and they take bio security seriously.
In Georgia all birds over 4 months of age are tested.
The tester will set up their test kit which includes a needle blood catch wand, testing plate, AI blood tubes, and PT antigen.
You will then be asked to catch each bird one at a time. The tester will poke the vein in the wing and take one drop of blood to mix with the PT antigen, then the tester will fill a small tube about 1/4 full of blood to submit to the lab for the AI test. Pullorum Typhoid results are available within minutes, the AI samples have to be run at the lab and the Serum test usually takes 24 hours. Some states do an oral swab for AI. This is called a PCR test and is much the same as when a human is tested for the flu. PCR test results are available after 4 hours.
Once a bird is tested it is banded. Each band has an individual identification number which is recorded with the state NPIP office.
That's it! Your birds are tested and more than likely passed the PT as it is no longer a common disease. You will be required to sign a contract that states you will only buy and bring in birds from farms and hatcheries that have an equivalent level of testing as you. Fees vary from state to state. Some states do testing free of charge while other charge up to a couple hundred dollars. In Georgia its $25 annually and that covers 2 AI tests 6 months apart and the PT test is $0.47 per bird.
You will receive your Avian Influenza results by mail, usually within a week of testing. If there is an issue with your results you will be contacted by phone within 24 hours.
videos to our testing can be found here.
That title can be misleading but seemed fitting for my first blog post. Since I am new to this I hope you will be forgiving while I learn the ways of bloggers. We all have to start somewhere and I have so much I want to share with you about my adventures in farming. I have learned so much in such a short time. Being a farm virgin can be overwhelming with the amount of knowledge you need to succeed.
The motto of our farm is 'Grow with us". A fitting motto as we adapt to our new lifestyle and hope to help other beginners in their journey.
It's hard to believe that only a couple of years ago we were living in a beautiful subdivision with an H.O.A. that was 5 minutes from the Gulf of Mexico. My husband had a good job that allowed me to stay home. My title was Wife, Mother and Domestic Engineer (housewife). My day to day was filled with suburban housewife duties such as, driving the kids to school, cleaning house, grocery shopping, brunch with friends and planning our weekends. I had a newer home with 2 new vehicles in the driveway. I paid a landscape company to tend and care for my lawn, got my vehicles detailed monthly and hired people to replace light fixtures in the house. While some of you may think we had it made as a working middle class family, I always knew I was destined for more.
slowly my very plain backyard started to turn into an urban farm. over the course of a year I had built a producing garden, added 6 chickens and a chicken coop. The thought of producing our own food and getting eggs from loved and cared for healthy chickens just seemed like a no brainer. Gradually over the next couple of years my garden expanded and my chickens quadrupled. I spent every waking moment learning as much as I could about chickens and gardening. I started making my own laundry soap and removing chemicals from our home and diet. My H.O.A home on a 1/2 an acre was slowly converted into an urban homestead.
In 2014 we decided to put our house up for sale and search for a farm. We had outgrown our little 1/2 acre and needed more land. We found the perfect property in Alabama. We were so excited and immediately put in an offer contingent on the sale of our home in Florida. Unfortunately due to difficult sellers and the lack of offers on our home, what I considered my dream farm just didn't happen. I didn't let this detour me, I continued to build and expand. I became known as the crazy chicken lady in my neighborhood. For the next two years we focused on learning as much as we could so when we did buy a farm we would at least be somewhat prepared. Summer of 2016 my husband was offered a job in Georgia. The position was a career advancement he just couldn't pass up. We put our home on the market again with little hope of a quick sale and within 8 days we had an offer. I had 1 week to find a farm in Georgia to ensure a back to back closing and that my family and chickens wouldn't be homeless.
It happened so fast..
I was looking at farms on craigslist a couple of months before my husband received the job offer. Once you have viewed everything in your area, craigslist will show you search results on nearby pages. I remember seeing an ad for this beautiful property located just outside of Macon. It had everything I wanted and honestly its was absolutely stunning. I doubted that the home would still be available, but in my curiosity I decided to look for it. "Hallelujah"! The farm was still for sale. My husband was already working in Georgia so I quickly called him and said "Babe! You have to go see this house now!" My husband had already viewed several farms and none seemed to fit. We had a list of requirements for our new farm and to be considered it had to meet the following-
Melanie is the owner of BuckleBerry farm. Located in the beautiful state of Georgia. Born in England, Melanie moved to the U.S. In 2000. She is the wife of a Navy Veteran and has 2 Children. Melanie always dreamed of owning a farm since she was a little girl. Her passion and love for animals has been her driving force. In 2016 her dream became a reality, with only self taught experience and education Melanie is tackling the challenges and enjoying the benefits of owning a mini farm.