Heed Rules If Transporting Chickens Across State Lines

If you're moving and plan on transporting your chickens from one state to another via interstate travel, you need to read up on the rules and do it right.

by Ana Hotaling
PHOTO: auremar/AdobeStock

Linda recently moved from Nebraska to Oklahoma. As much as she and her husband had looked forward to settling into their new home, she was very much saddened by the loss of her backyard flock. Since she was moving across state lines, she had to find a new home for the quartet of Buff Orpington girls she had lovingly raised since baby chickdom.

She fortunately had found someone who’d keep the four hens together. But she still tears up about leaving them behind.

“I’ll be getting new babies next spring,” she noted. “But I really wish I could have brought them with us.” 

Linda’s plight struck a nerve with me. My husband, Jae, and I have often spoken about leaving Michigan behind for the warmer, dryer weather of the Southwest. I’ve joked that we’d need a special trailer to transport our flocks along with us.

In all seriousness, however, I had no idea what regulations exist regarding the transport of live poultry between state lines. I’m well versed in the NPIP regulations regarding shipping day-old chicks and adult birds. But bringing them along as you drive from one state to another? No idea.

I’ve definitely seen livestock trucks on the interstates, the ventilation holes revealing the cargo within to be hogs, sheep and cows. I’ve never seen a truck transporting chickens … or any live poultry, for that matter. Time to do some digging! 

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New Town, New Rules 

While more and more municipalities permit the keeping of backyard flocks, not every town allows this. If microflock ownership is a non-negotiable point for you, contact the ordinance officer of your intended new town to inquire about backyard-flock regulations.

If the home you are considering is part of an association, you’ll want to contact the association secretary to verify whether backyard flocks are allowed there. Better to find out up front whether you can keep chickens in your intended relocation destination than to arrive with your flock and discover you have to rehome them.  

Read more: Traveling with chickens? Check out these important tips.

State Regulations 

Once you’ve confirmed that you can indeed keep chickens at your new location, you will need to contact your new state’s Department of Agriculture to ask about regulations regarding the transport/import of live poultry from another state. Each state defines its own rules covering the length of quarantine prior to and immediately following transport; required documents from an inspecting veterinarian; and even the number of non-commercial birds that can be brought in.

Many states are vigilant about avian influenza and other highly transmissible poultry diseases. So there may be bans in place that prohibit transporting chickens from specific states.

Skipping any steps required by your intended state—or any states you’ll be traveling through—may result in serious consequences for you and your flock. You can find state agricultural departments here. 

Federal Code of Regulations 

You will also want to familiarize yourself with Title 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), specifically Chapter 1, Subchapter C, which covers the interstate transportation of animals, including poultry.

Regulations exist covering:

  • general transportation practices
  • the inspection and certification of poultry for interstate movement
  • feeding, watering and resting livestock

Despite the legalese, the CFR provides a lot of valuable and helpful information to anyone considering transporting chickens via interstate travel. 

Read more: Do your local regulations allow backyard hens?

Veterinary Certification 

Getting a veterinarian to certify your flock as healthy is a bit more complicated than it may seem. Your destination state may specify whether a general veterinarian can inspect and certify your flock or whether this must be done by a livestock or avian veterinarian.

If a specialized veterinarian is required, ask your local veterinarian or your state extension office for a referral. Chances are a specialized vet will have done these type of evaluations before. But, just to err on the side of caution, let whichever veterinarian you use know that they must check with your destination state’s agriculture department (and those of states you’re traveling through) for any specific forms that must be completed and whether these must either be filed prior to your move or accompany your click … or both.

The veterinarian will also find guidelines as to how close to your departure date they must inspect your flock.  

As it turned out, Linda could have brought her girls along with her to Oklahoma. She isn’t planning on moving any time soon (“never again” might be more specific). But now I know what I must do should we finally decide to leave Michigan behind for Nevada or New Mexico… and now you do, too!

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