Avian Influenza and Your Farm

Disease control and biosecurity are insurance against contagious diseases, like Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), that can potentially negatively impact your poultry's health and welfare.

Wild birds, particularly waterfowl, can be infected with avian influenza viruses without appearing to be sick. When these same viruses occur in domestic poultry they often cause severe illness and death.

Remember to work with your veterinarian to investigate all mortalities and production losses that occur outside of expected values, especially those that have a sudden onset.

Disease Summary

Avian influenza (AI) is a contagious viral infection that can affect many species of food-producing birds, such as chickens, turkeys, domestic ducks and geese, quail, pheasants and guinea fowl. Wild birds, particularly geese, ducks and shorebirds, are known to transmit the virus between regions during spring and fall migration.

AI viruses are classified into high pathogenic (HPAI) or low pathogenic (LPAI) strains, based upon the severity of illness caused in birds. In Canada, HPAI (all strains) and LPAI (H5 and H7 strains) are considered Notifiable Avian Influenza, and must be reported to CFIA under the Health of Animals Act. 

Wild birds may not show signs of infection, but may carry and shed AI viruses through fecal droppings. Infected birds spread the virus either through direct or indirect contact. AI viruses may survive for several days in feed, water, soil, dead birds, eggs or litter. AI viruses can be transmitted between flocks via movement of infected birds, or on contaminated equipment, clothing, footwear, vehicles, water and feed.
The incubation period of AI ranges from 2-14 days. HPAI spreads rapidly within densely populated poultry flocks. Some or all of the following clinical signs may be evident:
  • a drop in production of eggs, many of which are soft-shelled or shell-less
  • diarrhea
  • hemorrhages on the hock
  • high and sudden mortality rate
  • quietness and extreme depression
  • swelling of the skin under the eyes 
  • wattles and combs become swollen and congested

Basic Biosecurity for the Commercial Flock  

Although wild birds always pose a disease risk to domestic poultry, this risk is especially high in the fall. Past surveillance has shown that avian influenza viruses are most common in younger migratory birds in the fall (August to November) as they mix with mature birds and gather together in areas, shedding the virus in their feces. The cooler and damper fall weather also means that the virus is able to survive for longer periods in the environment than during the hotter drier summer.

Once introduced into a commercial poultry barn, HPAI viruses are able to spread quickly through the densely populated barns, causing significant production loss and animal suffering. Once in a commercial barn, the virus is more likely to spread to other commercial barns, intensifying the impact on the poultry industry as a whole. During the 2021-2022 outbreak, HPAI was found in 281 farms in nine provinces across Canada, and 715 farms in 47 US states.

To protect your barns and the industry,  it is important to reduce the risk from this disease, by implementing effective biosecurity practices on your farm. Additional steps should be taken to limit direct and indirect contact between wild birds and domestic poultry, including through controlling the risk of disease spread by farm equipment and visitors to your farm.

Barns, Yards and Equipment

  • The most effective place to stop avian influenza is at the barn door with a strong biosecurity program that is regularly reviewed and consistently implemented. Ask your veterinarian to help you develop an appropriate biosecurity program that is specific to the risk factors present on your farm (ex: presence of ponds, layout of your barns, other agricultural operations that are close to you). Manitoba Agriculture is also able to provide technical support for you or your veterinarian. If you can prevent avian influenza from getting into your barn, it will not be able to spread within the industry.
  • Keep your barn door locked and post a sign indicating that only authorized personnel are allowed inside.
  • Create a zone around your barn in which only essential vehicles such as feed and chick trucks are allowed. The zone should extend at least 15 m (50 ft.) from your barn.
  • Post a sign telling people where they should park.
  • Truck drivers who must enter the control zone around your barn should wear disposable or clean, washable footwear. Discuss biosecurity with companies that must send trucks into your controlled access zone.
  • It is preferable to have an enclosed, clean, clutter-free entry way or hallway into a poultry barn, with doors at both ends.  This prevents barn dust and dander from contaminating coats and foot wear that staff and visitors may wear to the barn. 
  • If no entry way is available, then coveralls can be provided at the parking sites so visitors can leave their coats at their vehicles.  Plastic booties (or dedicated boots) and head covers then need to be available at the parking area or barn door.
  • Keep the area within at least 15 m (50 ft.) of your barn clean and free of debris.
  • Keep the grass cut around your barn.
  • Sunlight is a good disinfectant if it is not blocked by clutter or debris.
  • Maintain a rodent and fly control program.
  • If you have a dugout or other surface body of water supplying drinking water for your birds, the incoming water should be chlorinated at all times. Monitor the chlorine level and pH of the water to ensure that the chlorination is effective.
  • Stop wild birds from entering your barn. Keep screens over your inlets well maintained.
  • Disinfect any equipment leaving or entering your barn
  • Egg trays, dividers and pallets should be cleaned and allowed to dry at the grading station prior to being shipped to your farm. A drying time of three days for wooden pallets and dividers is recommended. Pallets and dividers should be used only a limited number of times before being retired from use on farms. Producers should place any dirty trays in a garbage bag and send to the grading station for cleaning.

Staff and Visitors

  • Do not have unnecessary visitors in your barn.
  • Have anyone entering your barn sign a logbook.  Request that all non-regular visitors entering the barn have not been exposed to live birds or swine for at least three days prior to entry.
  • Ensure that regular service personnel are aware of and perform proper biosecurity procedures and prioritize poultry farm visits according to biosecurity status.
  • Provide a contact phone number where a visitor may contact once they arrive.
  • All people entering your barn, including farm workers, catching crews and truck drivers, should have clean, protective outerwear (ex: footwear, coveralls and hat or hair net). Separate footwear for each barn is preferred. Have these items available for visitors and farm workers.
  • All farmers, workers and visitors should wash their hands after handling birds. A hand wash area should be provided in the barn.
  • People leaving your barns should not wear any of their barn clothing (ex: boots, coveralls, hat, etc.) inside their vehicles.
  • People should wash their hands before entering their vehicles.
  • Dirty clothing should be secured in a plastic bag and cleaned as soon as possible. The inside of vehicles should be kept clean.
  • Biosecurity recommendations apply to farmers, farm employees, any weekend help, visitors and delivery people.
  • Request that any person who has visited a live bird market or has visited an avian influenza infected region wait for at least two weeks prior to entering your barn without having any additional contact with swine or poultry in that two week period. Live bird markets include auction markets and ethnic markets were consumers view birds live before purchasing the carcass.


  • Do not sell eggs or birds on-farm. Direct egg and bird sales will only increase traffic on your farm. This includes selling, buying, or trading "spiking roosters".
  • Ensure you implement effective biosecurity measures when visiting high traffic sites such as abattoirs, poultry shows and sales, and live bird markets (where the live bird is viewed before it is butchered).
  • Barn staff must be aware that hunting wild fowl, visiting zoos or wildlife reserves or visiting locations where backyard flocks are present are risky activities. It is important that appropriate biosecurity measures are taken prior to returning to the barn after participating in these activities.
  • Barn staff should not have a back yard flock or swine herd at their own home.
  • If your birds have access to an outdoor range or exercise yard, be especially vigilant during the fall migration of wild waterfowl.  It is important to have a veterinarian examine any unusual mortality or decrease in production that occurs during this time.

Additional Resources


For more information, or if you suspect any animal health related concerns, please contact the Chief Veterinary Office or call 204-945-7663 in Winnipeg.