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Chicken Respiratory Surveillance Research

Sampling guidance for vets & information for owners

wings abducted
gasping chicken
chicken rales
About the research

Respiratory diseases are common in backyard chickens and there are many causes; viral, bacterial and parasitic. Birds with viral infections often require NSAIDs and intensive nursing to recover and may or may not develop secondary infections. Birds with bacterial infections often require antibiotics if their infection is making then severely unwell. Parasitic infections, e.g. gapeworm, are treated with licenced poultry wormers.


This study aims to increase the information on backyard and pet chicken respiratory pathogens. This information will help us better understand the prevalence of different pathogens in the UK pet and backyard chicken population. It will also assist vets in deciding on treatment plans, thus reducing antibiotic usage and resistance.


FREE respiratory disease testing is offered to all pet and backyard chickens showing respiratory signs, except those with signs of notifiable disease. Clients will still have to cover the costs incurred by their vet which may include sampling, submission and interpretation fees.

Tests include: bacterial respiratory pathogens including Avibacterium paragallinarum (Infectious coryza), avian metapneumovirus & avian infectious bronchitis virus.

Anonymity: Your anonymous results will be used in this study and samples will be stored for future surveillance testing for other respiratory pathogens.

This study is run by the University of Surrey, Surrey Poultry Vet, APHA (Animal Plant Health Agency), & The University of Liverpool and supported by BVPA (British Veterinary Poultry Association).

Inclusion criteria

Pet or backyard chickens 10-weeks and older with one or more of these signs:


Nasal discharge

Ocular discharge (check not primary opthalmic first)



Rales, crackles


Facial swelling, swollen sinuses or periocular swelling

Birds may present with inappetence, unilateral or bilateral lesions.

Exclusion criteria

Commercial flocks or birds younger than 10-weeks.

If there is any evidence of notifiable disease evidence (dullness, depression, lethargy, inappetence, petechial or extensive skin haemorrhages, swelling and cyanosis of wattles)  or recent unexplained death


Pecking or mating related cellulitis or ulceration causing facial swelling

Samples for pre- or post-sale screening.

How to participate?

Book an appointment with your local veterinary surgeon. If they have not heard of this research and the free testing then please refer them to this website or to email for more information.

Consent to participate

Consent for your samples to be used for surveillance purposes must be given by leaving the "opt out" box unchecked on the sample submission form .

Material required for sampling

Sampling MUST be carried out by a veterinary surgeon.

Two samples must be submitted from each bird along with a photograph (see below) of the bird's head clearly showing any facial swelling or discharge.

Please take samples Monday - Wednesday and post immediately as bacteriology samples need to be processed without delay in order to ensure bacterial survival.

Samples taken on Thursday should be posted for next day delivery with URGENT marked on the envelope.

The choanal cleft sample taken for bacteriology must be taken using a transport swab e.g. charcoal, to aid Avibacterium paragallinarum survival.

Mycoplasma testing is available through The University of Liverpool Veterinary Diagnostic Microbiology Service at £25 per sample.

Access at

Sterile oropharyngeal swab
  1. Select a PCR, synthetic media swab (do not use wooden swabs).

  2. Restrain the bird in upright position – hold the bird into your body so it won’t flap. 

  3. Gently extend the head and open the beak.

  4. Holding the end of the swab, gently insert the tip of the swab into the mouth. 

  5. For an oropharyngeal sample, gently roll the swab around the mouth to pick up as much material as possible. It is easier to insert the swab into the lateral aspect of the beak, rather than at the beak tip.

  6. Remove & sheath and label the swab.

chicken choanal cleft.png
Sterile choanal cleft swab
  1. Select a charcoal transport media swab.

  2. Restrain the bird in upright position – hold the bird into your body so it won’t flap. 

  3. Gently extend the head and open the beak.

  4. Holding the end of the swab, gently insert the tip of the swab into the mouth. 

  5. Gently roll the swab tip along the opening to the choanal cleft to pick up mucus. Be aware that bird may try and sneeze.

  6. Remove, sheath and label the swab.

See the choanal cleft circled in blue. The larynx is visible at the base of the tongue. Please do NOT attempt to insert the swab into the trachea.

Chicken restraint
  1. Place your hand and arm under the bird with its head towards your elbow. This allows you to support the bird by its breast and abdomen on your forearm whilst your fingers are placed either side of the legs above the hocks to restrain them.

  2. Ensure one finger is between the legs to make sure you do not crush them together. The bird should stay quite quietly like this.
  3. The sternum of the bird should rest on your forearm.

  4. Bringing the bird across your chest will prevent one wing from flapping whilst the other can be restrained by your free hand.

  5. Do not clasp tightly or you will make breathing difficult and the bird will struggle.

Sample submission

Submission can be either using the free ADTS testing service, which provides free postage for all samples submitted online if practices are registered with the service, or manually using the APHA Avian Surveillance form which will incur postage costs. The project code and history below MUST be included to qualify for the free testing.

Using the ADTS (Animal Disease Testing Service)

Please copy the following clinical history and presenting information into the "written clinical history" box shown below. Select test codes listed in table above.

ADTS history box.JPG

Project code ED1300/URD

Please perform a TICK STREAK along with Test TC0101

CC all reports to RL Lasswade

Brief history/Additional history

Please fill in or delete as appropriate


Clinical signs started on_______________

Cough YES/NO     Sneeze YES/NO

Rales YES/NO        Lung crackles YES/NO

Swollen sinus/ocular selling YES/NO

Comb/wattles swollen YES/NO

Ocular discharge: none – clear – cloudy – caseous

Nasal discharge: none – clear – cloudy – caseous

Antibiotic treatment?­­­   YES/NO. If yes then when _______

Wormed?                    YES/NO. If yes then when _______

Vaccination? YES/NO. If yes then what for?

Postcode of animal __________

PHOTO emailed YES/NO

Using the avian surveillance submission form

Please fill in the clinical history in the relevant section. It has been pre-populated with the information above.


Please take samples Monday - Wednesday and post immediately as bacteriology samples need to be processed without delay in order to ensure bacterial survival.


Post ideally next day delivery, or at least 1st-class to.

APHA Veterinary Investigation Centre, Merrythought, Calthwaite, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 9RR

Photograph submission

A photograph of the bird's head, clearly showing any facial swelling or discharge, must be sent to Henrietta Kodilinye-Sims at the University of Surrey, School of Veterinary Medicine using the link below

Include the following in the email body:

  • The ADTS sample submission number (ideally)


  • Your reference number as written on the submission form AND the bird's postcode


e.g. 21-B0266-10-20


Results will be returned online via the ADTS or as requested in the avian submission form, usually within a week.

You will receive results for bacterial pathogens, avian metapneumovirus & avian infectious bronchitis virus.

Samples will be stored anonymously for future respiratory studies.

Submission deadline

We aim for the majority of samples to be received by end of 2021

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