Summary: Birds play a central role in WNV epidemiology by spreading and amplifying the virus. Increasing numbers of WNV isolates are detected in Europe, and the virulence of these genetically variable isolates is not well characterized for birds. Therefore, we investigated whether SPF chickens could be a valuable avian model for the pathotyping of WNV strains. One-day-old SPF chickens were inoculated subcutaneously (SC) or intracerebrally (IC) with four lineage 1 WNV strains (Is98, It2008, Fr2000 or Kunjin) and were daily clinically monitored for 2 weeks after infection. Additionally, one-day-old SPF chickens were SC inoculated, and one-week-old SPF chickens were SC or IC inoculated with two Euro-Mediterranean isolates, Is98 and Fr2000, to sample blood and feathers at regular time points. These samples were analysed by WN NS2a-specific rRT-PCR and WN NS1 antigen-capture ELISA that were developed for the purpose of this study. Differences in strain virulence were evidenced after IC inoculation of one-day-old SPF chickens, with Is98 eliciting the highest mortality rates and Kunjin the lowest ones, while lethality of Fr2000 and It2008 was intermediate. Neither viral load in sera and feathers nor NS1 antigen in the serum correlated with the differential pathogenicity of Is98 and Fr2000. However, irrespective of the inoculated strain, younger chickens showed higher and longer-lasting viremias than older chickens. In all experimental groups, the detection window for viral RNA in feathers lasted up to 14 dpi. Altogether, the data presented in this study show that WNV strain virulence can be discriminated in a one-day-old SPF chicken model on the basis of mortality rates, while viremia and viral load in feathers appear to be age dependent rather than strain dependent.