Detailed guide: Laying hens and flocks: poultry testing for salmonella

Animal Plant Health Agency

January 25
19:53 2021

Testing is part of the national control programme (NCP) for salmonella. The NCP aims to control salmonella in poultry flocks across the EU.

Who must take samples and test

You must take samples if you produce eggs on a commercial basis.

Youll be prosecuted or fined if you do not get your egg-laying hens tested as described in this guide. A fine can range from 100 to 4,500.

Your flock does not need testing if one of the following apply:

  • all production is for private domestic use (the eggs are not entering the market)
  • the premises has fewer than 350 hens and supplies the consumer direct (such as through farm-gate sales or local retailers)
  • your flock is under official salmonella restrictions - if this is the case the flock is not part of the NCP

You must send samples for testing to a UK approved laboratory. Choose from:

Work out how many flocks you must test

A flock is a group of birds that shares the same air space, for example a chicken house or range area.

If you need help working out how many flocks you have, you can ask for advice from:

You need to decide how many flocks you keep, so you collect all the samples you must take. If your birds form one flock, theyll all be treated as belonging to a positive flock if sampling gives a positive result. Your decision about whether you have one or more flocks could affect how official disease controls affect your business for certain salmonella results.

Register your flocks before you get them tested

You must register each premises where you keep your flocks on:

When you must not sample

Avoid taking samples during or shortly after giving antimicrobials (antibiotics) that affect salmonella. APHA or DAERA could declare your flock positive for salmonella if either of the following apply:

  • inspectors see from the flock medicine book that youve given antibiotics
  • the laboratory suspects that there may be disinfectant or antibiotics affecting your samples

Contact one of the following for guidance on when to test after giving antibiotics:

  • the vet who prescribed them
  • APHA if you farm in England, Scotland or Wales
  • DAERA if you farm in Northern Ireland

Check your laboratory can test samples within 96 hours

Do not collect samples unless your approved laboratory can start testing them within 96 hours (4 days) of you taking the samples. Make sure it can test your samples within 96 hours of taking them if you post them. You may have problems if it receives them on a Thursday, Friday or public holiday.

Youll need to collect more samples if theyre delayed in the post, or the laboratory cannot start testing within 96 hours.

Pay for samples and tests

You need to buy your own sampling equipment. Contact one of the following to find out where you can buy the equipment you need:

  • your vet
  • the approved laboratory you plan to use
  • APHA

Youll also have to pay laboratory charges for:

Take samples from your rearing flock

You must take samples at all of the following times:

  • on the day the chicks arrive from a hatchery
  • 2 weeks before you move them to the laying unit

Samples to send on the day of arrival

You must send the following for laboratory testing on the day of arrival:

  • the liners from boxes used to deliver the chicks - one box for every 500 chicks from each delivery (up to 10 boxes)
  • any chicks that are dead on arrival or that you cull within 24 hours of arrival (up to 60 carcasses from each hatchery)

Samples to send from pullets

You must take samples from the pullets (young hens, also called rearing hens) 2 weeks before you move them to the laying unit. You can choose either of these types of samples:

Samples to send from adult egg-laying hens

You must sample your adult breeding flocks at least every 15 weeks during the laying period. This is known as operator sampling. An official sample can replace an operator sample.

Youll need to take different kinds of samples in different ways depending on your situation.

You must start to take samples from adult egg-laying hens in the layer unit or house when theyre between 22 and 26 weeks old.

You must use one of these types of samples:

Prepare to take boot swab samples from pullets and adult flocks

Take samples in the existing bedding - do not put new bedding down.

Gather all the equipment youll need before you go into the laying house to prevent contamination. Take care to avoid contamination if you keep other animals (especially pigs or cattle) on your premises.

To prevent disinfectant or sanitiser affecting your sample, you:

  • should not use hand sanitiser on your plastic gloves
  • should put on your plastic overboots after youve walked through disinfectant

If you wear plastic overboots when you walk through disinfectant, you should put on another pair afterwards to protect the boot swabs from the disinfectant.

How to take boot swab samples from pullets and adult flocks

You must use boot swabs (fabric overshoes) to collect samples from barn or free-range pullets and hens.

See Pay for samples and tests to find out how to get the equipment you need.

You should use:

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