MORE than 4000 rare chickens held in quarantine at Torrens Island may be killed after one of the birds was found to be infected with salmonella.
The birds, the product of a 10-year breeding program that has cost $500,000, were due to be released in the next few days to a group of about 100 breeders across the nation.
The prospect of a poultry slaughter was triggered by the death of a chick that showed signs of salmonella - the only positive test from hundreds done on the birds including "sentinel" birds specially bred to be susceptible to such diseases.
The federal Department of Agriculture gave the destruction order on Friday.
The Australian Rare Poultry Importation Syndicate is now scrambling to lodge a Supreme Court injunction to prevent the slaughter of the nine-week-old chicks on Tuesday.
Members of the syndicate are conservationists and exhibitors who enjoy the birds as a hobby rather than for food and wanted to replenish the existing gene pool as well as bring new breeds into Australia.
Syndicate spokeswoman Meredith Parker said the group formed a decade ago and had spent about $500,000 on a project to import eggs from 45 different breeds such as Cochins, Dorkings, Scots Greys and Vorwerks.