AN ELITE squad of chooks has been rolled out across nine farms in northern Victoria, the front line in the battle against mosquitoes.
The flock of almost 200 chickens is part of the annual arsenal employed by councils and the State Government to monitor mozzie-borne viruses, with horse testing and mozzie trapping also included.
The chooks are located by the Department of Primary Industries on undisclosed properties around the Murray, and have weekly blood tests to screen for Murray Valley encephalitis and kunjin virus.
DPI vet Dr Chris Werner, responsible for a flock of chooks at a Mooroopna dairy farm, said chicken sentinels had been deployed since a major outbreak of encephalitis in 1974 in Echuca.
"With weekly blood tests, the chooks provide an early indication of viruses in mozzie populations so action can be taken for public health," Dr Werner said.
Twelve councils around Victoria monitor mosquito populations.
Doug Cousins, mosquito officer at Greater Shepparton City Council, traps mozzies in four sites and said early indications suggested this summer would not be a serious one.