What are sentinel chickens and how are they used to control mosquitoes?
Sentinel chickens are used by mosquito control for surveillance of mosquito transmitted viruses. The mosquitoes that transmit these viruses primarily feed on birds. Sentinel chickens are placed at locations throughout the county and a small blood sample is taken from each chicken weekly. The blood samples are shipped to the state lab and tested for antibodies to West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis and St. Louis Encephalitis. Chickens do not become sick from these viruses and the viruses are unable to replicate in the chicken, therefore chickens cannot spread the virus to other mosquitoes. If a chicken has antibodies against one of these viruses then we know that virus is circulating in the mosquito population. Mosquito control then acts to lower the number of mosquitoes and reduce the risk for people and animals getting sick. Learn more about virus transmission on our website section mosquito-borne illnesses.
How does Volusia County Mosquito Control care for the chickens?
The chickens are housed in a secure coop to protect them from predators. They have a continuous supply of food and water available at all times. The chickens receive a nutritious diet for laying hens including treats. Mosquito control visits the chickens three times a week to collect samples, pick up mosquito traps, and fill the feeders. Chickens are rotated out of the coop after several months or when they test positive for a virus they are retired to new homes.