Avian Influenza

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)

Backyard biosecurity means doing everything you can to protect your birds from disease. As a bird owner, keeping your birds healthy is a top priority. Your birds can become sick or die from exposure to just a few unseen bacteria, viruses, or parasites. In a single day, these germs can multiply and infect all of your birds. By practicing backyard biosecurity, you will help keep your birds healthy.

If you follow some basic tips and make them part of your routine, you decrease the risk of disease entering your flock and persisting in soil, droppings, and debris. Practicing biosecurity is an investment in the health of your birds.

What Can I Do To Protect My Birds?

  1. Keep your distance.
  2. Keep it clean.
  3. Don’t haul disease home.
  4. Don’t borrow disease from your neighbor.
  5. Know the warning signs of infectious bird diseases.
  6. Report sick birds.

Cleaning and Disinfecting
Cleaning and disinfecting are the most important parts of backyard biosecurity. Make sure you do it correctly to inactivate disease.

  1. Thoroughly clean and scrub objects before applying disinfectants. Disinfectants cannot work on top of caked-on dirt and manure, so wash surfaces thoroughly before disinfecting them.
  2. Apply disinfectants using brushes, sponges and spray units. Allow adequate contact time (follow manufacturer’s instructions).
  3. Dispose of used disinfectant according to local regulations.

Below are some examples of disinfectants available on the market. Follow the directions on the label carefully for the best results.

  • Nolvasan (chlorhexidine diacetate 2 percent): Mix 3 fluid oz of Nolvasan per gallon of water.
  • Household bleach (sodium hypochlorite 6 percent): Mix three-fourths of a cup of household bleach per gallon of water.
  • Lysol spray for footwear.
  • Purell hand pump for hand disinfection.

Making an Easy Footbath
A footbath is a handy tool to help you practice backyard biosecurity. You can easily make one yourself. You will need:

  • A low plastic pan or bin, wide enough to fit an adult’s foot and shallow enough to step into easily.
  • A plastic doormat (the “fake grass” mats work well).
  • A disinfectant that works well for most situations, as described above.
  • Water.

Mix the disinfectant with water according to the label instructions. Put the doormat in the plastic pan. Add mixed disinfectant so that the bottom of the mat is wet. Ask visitors to walk through the footbath, wiping their feet on the mat. The mat scrubs their shoes a bit as they wipe them and applies the disinfectant. When the liquid starts to get dirty, empty it and put in new disinfectant.  

Keeping Your Poultry Healthy 

Early detection is important to prevent the spread of disease. Restrict access to your property and your birds. Consider fencing off the area where you keep your birds and make a barrier area if possible. Allow only people who take care of your birds to come into contact with them. If visitors have birds of their own, do not let them near your birds. Game birds and migratory waterfowl should not have contact with your flock because they are carriers of avian influenza.

Wear clean clothes, scrub your shoes with disinfectant, and wash your hands thoroughly before entering your bird area. Clean cages and change food and water daily. Clean and disinfect equipment that comes in contact with your birds or their droppings, including cages and tools. Remove manure before disinfecting. Properly dispose of dead birds.

If you have been near other birds or bird owners, such as at a feed store, clean and disinfect car and truck tires, poultry cages, and equipment before going home. Have your birds been to a fair or exhibition? Keep them separated from the rest of your flock for at least two weeks after the event. New birds should be kept separate from your flock for at least 30 days.

Do not share lawn and garden equipment, tools, or poultry supplies with your neighbors or other bird owners. If you do bring these items home, clean and disinfect them before they reach your property. 

  • Know the Warning Signs of Infectious Bird Diseases
  • Sudden increase in bird deaths in your flock
  • Sneezing, gasping for air, coughing, and nasal discharge
  • Watery and green diarrhea
  • Lack of energy and poor appetite
  • Drop in egg production or soft- or thin-shelled misshapen eggs
  • Swelling around the eyes, neck, and head
  • Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs, and legs (AI)
  • Tremors, drooping wings, circling, twisting of the head and neck, or lack of movement (END).  

Bird Flu poster available, includes warning signs and prevention, along with who to contact.

Publication Resources

Avian Influenza 2022: Frequently Asked Questions

Avian Influenza: What we Learned from 2015

Biosecurity Checklist for Combatting Avian Influenza

Biosecurity Measures to Fight Avian Influenza Threats

Backyard Biosecurity Checklist

  • Poultry pens are bird-proofed against wild or free-flying birds.
  • Measures are in place to prevent the accidental entrance of wildlife and to remove them from poultry pens and other areas should they gain entrance.
  • Dogs and cats are not allowed in poultry areas.
  • Feed bins are secured to prevent contamination by wild birds or rodents, and spilled feed is cleaned up promptly to prevent attracting wild birds and rodents.
  • Water is drawn from secure sources that cannot be accessed by free-flying birds or rodents.  
  • Dedicate footwear only to be worn in pen or coop to prevent tracking infected material in from outside. Consider double-booting with disposable footwear, otherwise.


  • Footbaths are used, and they are changed if the footbath collects excessive dirt, egg contents, or manure. 
  • Hand washing or hand-sanitizing stations are available.
  • Equipment and tools brought to the farm are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected prior to use.
  • Chicken transport equipment (carts, crates, etc.) is cleaned and disinfected prior to use.
  • Only clean, sanitized, and disinfected plastic egg cartons, or new disposable cartons, are allowed on the farm.
  • Cleaned and disinfected equipment is held under conditions that prevent exposure to wild birds.  

Video Resources

Lew Strickland, associate professor with the Department of Animal Science and UT Extension veterinarian, talks about avian influenza.

Melissa Kennedy, a veterinary virologist and associate professor at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, talks about Avian Influenza.