chickens in the yard

Resources for Backyard Flocks

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) – Resources for Backyard Flocks
(Non-Commercial/Pleasure/Hobby/Small Flocks)

Be aware that HPAI has been detected in wild birds and commercial flocks in the eastern US in 2022. HPAI is a deadly disease for poultry. It can infect poultry such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese, and guinea fowl and wild birds, especially waterfowl. HPAI is extremely infectious and can spread rapidly from flock to flock. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these recent HPAI detections in birds do not present an immediate public health concern. No human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States.

All those involved in poultry production to take extra steps to prevent their flocks from becoming infected. All poultry producers, from small backyard to large commercial operations, should take precautions to protect their birds and review their biosecurity plans. Biosecurity refers to everything you can do to keep diseases – and the viruses, bacteria, funguses, parasites, and other microorganisms that cause disease – away from birds, property, and people.

Best practices include:

  • Discourage unnecessary visitors and use biosecurity signs to warn people not to enter buildings without permission.
  • Ask all visitors if they have had any contact with any birds in the past five days.
  • Forbid entry to employees and visitors who own any kind of fowl.
  • Require all visitors to cover and disinfect all footwear.
  • Lock all entrances to chicken houses after hours.
  • Avoid non-essential vehicular traffic on-farm.
  • After hauling birds to processors, clean and disinfect poultry transport coops and vehicles before they return to the farm.
  • Report anything unusual, especially sick or dead birds (NYS Department of Ag and Markets Division of Animal Industry, (518) 457-3502; or USDA (866) 536-7593)

In addition to practicing good biosecurity, poultry owners should keep their birds away from wild ducks and geese and their droppings. Outdoor access for poultry should be limited at this time. Think carefully before adding new birds to your flock, and if you do, make sure the birds are from a reputable source.

Know the warning signs of HPAI:

  • Sudden increase in bird deaths without any clinical signs
  • Lack of energy and appetite
  • Decrease in egg production
  • Soft- of thin-shelled or misshapen eggs
  • Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles, and hocks
  • Purple discoloration of the wattles, comb and legs
  • Gasping for air (difficulty breathing)
  • Coughing, sneezing, and/or nasal discharge (runny nose)
  • Stumbling or falling down
  • Diarrhea

To report sick birds, unexplained high number of deaths, or sudden drop in egg production, please contact AGM’s Division of Animal Industry at (518) 457-3502 or the USDA at (866) 536-7593.


Avian Influenza FAQs

USDA Defend the Flock!

Biosecurity 101

Signs of Illness

Resource Center (English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalong)

Defend the Flock FaceBook:

Defend the Flock YouTube:

Defend the Flock Twitter:


General information about HPAI:

Information Related to Public Health Concerns:

Do you have questions on how to protect your backyard flock? Contact:

  • Sharon Bachman, Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator at, (716) 652-5400 ext150 
  • Tammi Kron, 4-H Livestock Educator at, (716) 652-5400 ext 132

Last updated April 7, 2022