May 13, 2021

Chick it out: What to consider when choosing young birds

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Choosing where to buy chickens can be intimidating, especially for first-timers.

Eggs or chicks from a hatchery involved with the National Poultry Improvement Plan are a great place to start.

The NPIP program originated back in the early 1900s, when farmers began shipping chicks, said Darrin Karcher, Poultry Extension specialist.

“At the same time, we saw bacillary white diarrhea spread,” he said. “Today, we call it Pullorum.

“It became obvious by 1935 there needed to be nationwide programming. Congress established the National Poultry Improvement Program.”

The voluntary program had three goals: to improve poultry breeding stocks, control specific egg-transmitted diseases, and to facilitate interstate movement of hatching eggs and live poultry.

The NPIP program still includes Pullorum, but also includes other diseases like avian influenza.

“They’ve expanded what the program can monitor,” Karcher said. “But it serves the same function, trying to control the spread of diseases that can be transmitted from hen to offspring via the egg.”

Now the program includes turkeys, as well as chickens.

“It’s evolved into this disease control program that most hatcheries participate in throughout the U.S.,” Karcher said.

Learn more about NPIP at

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor