Beyond Poultry Keeping: Becoming An NPIP Tester

If you love chickens but can't commit to full-time education, consider becoming an NPIP tester to monitor disease spread among chicken flocks.

by Ana Hotaling
PHOTO: Юлия Завалишина/AdobeStock

Flock keepers wishing to expand their love of chickens beyond their backyard may choose to pursue certifications or degrees in such poultry specialties as meat production, farm management and business.

But not everybody can spare the time for collegiate-level courses, either on or offline. For those chicken owners wishing to give back to their local poultry community without devoting years to study and preparation, one excellent option is to become an NPIP tester. 

What Is NPIP?

The National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) launched in 1935 with the goal of eliminating Salmonella pullorum, a highly contagious avian disease that, in the 1930s, caused up to 80-percent mortality in infant poultry.

Over the years, the NPIP expanded to monitor and test for other diseases including Fowl Typhoid, Avian Influenza, and Mycoplasma. As a cooperative program between the federal governments, state governments and the poultry industry, the NPIP strives to prevent disease, enhance international trade, and  improve poultry and poultry products through the use of new diagnostic technologies. 

What Is an NPIP Tester?

Sick birds can quickly spread contagion when brought together in such social situations as county fairs and poultry exhibitions. Similarly, sickness can cross state lines when breeders sell infected chicks or adult birds to customers.

NPIP testers blood-test flocks to certify them as Pullorum and Fowl Typhoid free, a necessity for dedicated breeders. (Most states prohibit the entry of poultry not certified as Pullorum-Typhoid free.)

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NPIP testers also conduct blood testing at poultry exhibitions and fairs to screen and catch infected birds before they enter the competition grounds.

Read more: What can you do when your chicken tests positive for disease?

How Does One Become an NPIP Tester?

Each state has its own parameters and certification program, managed by the Official State Agent (OSA), that administers the NPIP. Typically the OSA offers one or two workshops per year, open to anyone who wishes to be certified as an NPIP tester. A certification workshop can last one to two days and involves both seminars and hands-on training.

Those who pass the examination at the end of the workshop can be certified as NPIP testers. The costs of the workshop and the certification vary from state to state. To learn more about NPIP certification workshops in your state, contact your local OSA.

What Happens Once Certified as an NPIP Tester?

Once your OSA certifies you as an NPIP tester, your name will be added to your state’s database of testers. Any poultry farmer in your area wishing to have their flock certified as Pullorum-Typhoid free will be given your contact information to call and set up an appointment for flock testing.

Likewise, local fairs, poultry exhibitions and 4-H competitions may reach out to you  for assistance testing birds. It never hurts, however, to contact your favorite events to let them know of your availability.

Be aware, however, that you will need to renew your NPIP tester certification every three years. Your OSA will contact you when you are due for renewal. 

Read more: Check out these 7 steps for preparing chickens for the fair.

What Every New NPIP Tester Should Know

As an NPIP tester, you will need specific equipment to carry out your duties. Your OSA should provide you with a list of necessary supplies—ranging from disposable gloves and blood-gathering loops to lighted testing boards—and sources where these can purchased.

The most expensive item you will need is the antigen, or serum, necessary for testing.

A 14ml bottle typically costs about $120. Because it must remain refrigerated, shipping can be costly.

The flip side to this is that NPIP testers set their own rates. You can charge for your services by the bird or by the flock. If you charge by the flock, make sure to scale your pricing according to the size of the flock. This way, you won’t show up expecting to test a backyard quartet of hens only to encounter a small-scale farm with 300 birds. 

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