Sentinel Chickens

Overview

Sentinel Chickens

A chicken is held still while a person blots its comb with a tissue.

The District uses sentinel chickens in rural parts of the county to detect West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases. They serve as an early indicator of disease in areas where dead birds are less likely to be seen and/or reported.

From May through October, sentinel chickens are bled bi-weekly and their blood is tested for the presence of antibodies to West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases. They are bled humanely by a lancet similar to a finger prick.

Even if infected with West Nile virus or another mosquito-borne disease, chickens do not usually get sick, and cannot pass on the virus to mosquitoes, people, or other birds.

To date, no West Nile virus antibodies have been detected in sentinel chickens in San Mateo County.

Meet the San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District Sentinel Chickens
Video

Meet the San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District Sentinel Chickens

Every summer, the District ‘hires’ 30 chickens to help us monitor levels of West Nile virus in San Mateo County. Here’s what Vector Ecologist Tina Sebay had to say about the District’s sentinel chicken program:

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