An attempt by the Teamsters to organize employes of Frank Perdue's chicken empire failed yesterday when truck drivers at the poultry company's Salisbury, Md., headquarters overwhelmingly rejected the union as its bargaining agent.

According to Bob Reynolds, vice president of Teamsters Local 876, the 120 drivers who truck chickens to East Coast markets for Perdue Farms Inc. voted 81 to 28 against joining the union.

"I think the company did an excellent sales job," in convincing its truck drivers not to join the union, Reynolds said. "I'm not sure what we'll do now."

Company officials were unavailable for comment yesterday but previously had expressed confidence that they would defeat the union drive, which threatened to end the company's 60-year history of operating without any unions.

There are about 3,800 employes in the Perdue empire who prepare chickens and distribute them around the country. None of these workers have unions representing them.

Seven years ago employes at the firm's Accomak, Va., chicken processing plant voted against joining a union. Last month, a vote by about 1,100 workers at that plant was postponed indefinitely when union officials filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board. That charge currently is being investigated.

The union drive at the Salisbury headquarters began this summer when several truck drivers were fired by the company. Many of their colleagues, already angered at a new set of regulations recently issued by the company to govern their behavior, felt the dismissals were unwarranted and briefly went on strike.

The teamsters got involved at the request of several truck drivers, and when the strike ended, the union drive began in earnest.

According to Reynolds, the teamsters will have to abandon their effort to organize the truck drivers for at least another year.