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Sentinel Chickens

Sentinel Chicken Surveillance

The Florida State Board of Health established the 1st statewide arbovirus surveillance program following the 1977 SLE epidemic in Central Florida. The Sentinel Chicken Program began in 1978 and the state provides serological testing detecting antibodies and antigens to SLE (St. Louis Encephalitis), EEE (Eastern Equine Encephalitis), WNV (West Nile Virus), and HJ (Highlands Jay). 

IRMCD has 8 Sentinel flocks & Vector Monitoring Sites around the county made up of 6 birds per flock, and they are tested weekly for antibodies.

It is important to us that our chickens receive excellent care.

  • The flocks are inspected a minimum of three times each week.
  • Every bird can access fresh water and food 24/7 via their feeder and water system.
  • Each house has a perch installed within the coop to allow the chickens to roost at night.
  • Every chicken is monitored weekly for viral activity. Although the viruses are harmful to man, they do not cause harm to the chicken. This is why chickens are ideal “sentinels.”
  • IRMCD chickens are only in the field for 6 months.
  • After 6 months, the chickens are retired to good homes, and new chickens are placed out in the field.
Chicken House inside
  Chickens are an essential tool in the fight against Vector Borne Illness.  The Chicken's ability to attract mosquitoes and not become ill is crucial to the early detection of diseases like West Nile Virus and St. Louis Encephalitis.