We blood test annually for pullorum for our NPIP membership, quarterly for Avian Influenza and for other diseases as required for exporting to different countries. The following directions will work for taking blood samples from chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys or any type of poultry. You should check with your veterinarian and/or laboratory to ensure these methods will meet their requirements.
1) We use 1” needles that are 20 gauge. They are attached to a syringe that holds 3ml (3cc). You can typically purchase these at a veterinary supply company. We purchase ours from VSI in boxes of 100. They cost about $16 per box of 100.
2) You need to ask what type of tube to use for the blood. We always use “red top” tubes that can hold 3 cc. The red top indicates it is sterile inside the vial and no additives have beenadded. One hundred tubes come per box and costs about $15. If you are doing quite a few samples, you can mark the box with numbers around the perimeter and you do not need to remove and mark each individual tube. This makes shipping easier and safer. The lab can label the individual tubes as they remove them.
3) We remove the blood from the brachial artery on the inside of either wing. Have your assistant hold the bird on its back. Spread one wing out and pluck the feathers from the inside of the “elbow” until you see the darker brachial vein going over the wing bone.
4) Remove the cap and sleeve of the syringe. Twist and remove the needle cover. As the needle is threaded on the syringe, twist the needle cover clockwise so it is tightening the needle as you are removing the cover.
5) Pull out the plunger of the syringe about ½” and push it back in. You want to do this now as it “breaks the seal” and makes it easier to pull slightly on the plunger when you are actually drawing blood.
6) You want to have both hands on the syringe when you draw the blood. One hand steadies the syringe and the other controls the plunger on the syringe. The needle should enter at a very slight angle (almost parallel) to the vein. Be careful you do not go all the way through vein as it is more difficult to find that “sweet spot” as you pull it back out through the vein . As soon as you insert the needle into the skin, pull back very slightly on the plunger so when you do enter the vein, blood will immediately enter the syringe. Once you start to get a good flow of blood, FREEZE! Any movement may remove the needle from the vein. Just gradually pull back on the syringe. Do not pull back hard on the syringe as the resulting suction may collapse the vein from which you are trying to get the blood. Typically 1.5 cc is plenty for diagnostic work. Once you have sufficient blood, remove the needle, press briefly on the puncture spot and release the bird. Only rarely does the bird bleed enough to notice it on the feathers after its release.
7) Sometimes you cannot get a good flow of blood and you must remove the needle to try the other wing. Oftentimes the blood pools on the wing. Check with the laboratory to see if this blood is acceptable for the tests you are doing. If so, just suck up sufficient blood from this pooled blood.
8) As the tubes have a slight vacuum, all you have to do is stick the needle into the tube and the blood will be sucked out of the syringe and into the tube. The best way to dispose of the needles is to put them in a “sharps” container, which can typically be purchased from the same company from whom you purchased the syringes. Do not put the syringes in the sharps container with the needles. The syringes can be disposed of as typical garbage.