Avian Flu and Protecting Your Backyard Flock, Recorded Video, Resources and Q&A

On January 19th, 2023, the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network hosted Dr. Tom Tabler, Poultry Specialist with the UT Extension and UT AgResearch, who gave a presentation explaining the Avian Flu that is impacting our region, and how people can reduce the spread by protecting their backyard flock through biosecurity measures.

The Virtual Meet-up was organized by the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based out of Martin, TN serving as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to ALL. This was a FREE event.

Watch the Recorded Presentation with the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network and Dr. Tom Tabler

Click on the video above to learn about how you can protect your backyard flocks from the Avian Bird Flu.


Dr. Tom Tabler’s Presentation: all you need to know about the Avian Flu, how to protect your birds, and what to do if your birds become infected.

Biosecurity Measures to Fight Avian Influenza: two main pathways, two sets of biosecurity measures, USDA 6 biosecurity steps to lessen disease risks, USDA’s five-step plan to deal with avian influenza cases

Avian Flu Threatens Tennessee Flocks: biosecurity disease signs and recommendations.

Biosecurity Checklist for Combatting the Avian Flu: The USDA has developed a valuable checklist of biosecurity measures that, when followed, can help prevent HPAI from entering your poultry operation.

Avian Influenza Frequently Asked Questions

Egg Sales in Tennessee: requirements and suggested practices for egg producers in Tennessee

For additional information on avian influenza and biosecurity, you may visit the USDA’s Defend the Flock website or animalscience.tennessee.edu/avian-influenza.

Tom Philpott, former food and ag reporter at Mother Jones and now a research associate at the Center for a Livable Future was part of a podcast yesterday on avian flu and he did a great job. A link to the podcast is below.

Sickened chickens – Today, Explained | Podcast on Spotify


If something in your flock seems suspicious or unusual or you see something that is just not right for your flock, get help immediately. If you’re a commercial producer, contact your service tech and ask that they come take a look. Even if your service tech was there yesterday, ask that they come back and make sure everything is okay. Waiting could have disastrous results. If you’re a backyard flock owner, contact:

  • Your local county Extension agent
  • Your local veterinarian
  • Tennessee State University Extension poultry specialist (615) 963-5823
  • Dr. Tom Tabler, University of Tennessee Extension poultry specialist (479) 879-3937, gtabler@utk.edu
  • Tennessee State Veterinarian’s office (615) 837-5120
  • West TN Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, Director Dr. Clint Ary, (731) 881-1071, cary1@vols.utk.edu
  • C. E. Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory, (615) 837-5125

Making an Easy Foot Bath

A footbath is a handy tool to help you practice backyard biosecurity. You can easily make one yourself (source: UT Institute of Agriculture). 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 foot bath, 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.  

Questions Asked during the Meet-UP

What are the signs of the Avian Influenza in birds?
Coughing/sneezing, nasal discharge/swollen sinuses, watery eyes, blue discoloration to face, comb or wattles, dramatic drop in water consumption, loss of appetite, ruffled feathers, huddling, drop or cessation in egg productions, diarrhea, birds that are more quiet than normal, birds that isolate themselves from the flock, hemmorrhages on the legs below the feather line, high number of deaths in a short time period.

How long does the virus live?
The virus can live in standing water up to 8 weeks in the winter and 4-6 weeks in the summer. If birds have been exposed, the incubation time is about 2-3 days, but no more than 5-6 days before birds show signs of illness.

What if my flock gets avian flu, and I report it – how do I clean the facility?
If it’s a known influenza case, the USDA has proceedure testing protocols. That particular site will be quarantined. They will test surrounding sites in the area. If a farm was diagnosed with it, but the time the testing, cleaning and disinfecting has happened, it would take several months to get a new flock up and running. The government pretty much covers all the cost in terms of testing and cleaning.

Is the state of TN restricting purchase or import of chickens from hatcheries within or outside of the state?
No, as long as the meat and eggs are cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees farienheight, the chicken meat is safe for human consumption.

I like to eat eggs sunny side up – the yolk is still raw – would that be safe to eat?
It could be risky. If you believe your eggs might have come from an infected bird, it’s best to have your yolks cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees fahrenheit. Avian Bird influenza viruses do not often infect humans. The risk of contracting AI from birds is very low.

Where do you get NPIP Certified Birds?
The Coops, Farm Supply Stores know the hatcheries are participating in the program. You can always ask a manager if the birds are NPIP certified.

What are “good measures” to control a rodent population with your home flocks?
Keeping the coops clean, and closed off to outside animals – both rodents and wild birds – is important. Keep out rats or mice. It’s best to rotate different kinds of products that use different active ingredients every 3-4 months to help control rodent populations. After awhile, rodents can become accustomed to the substances over time, causing the treatments to be less effective.

How can farmers market vendors share information about food safety and their eggs that they sell (do they need to package them differently or have a sign at their booth?
There is a publication from UT (PB1898)”Egg Sales in Tennessee” document – this document gives backyard poultry farmers the federal rules and regulations you have to abide by. Safe handling instructions need to be noted on the carton (i.e. “Keep refrigerated”)

Should you wear a mask inside the coop?
There is no need to wear a mask in the coop as the Avian Bird influenza viruses do not often infect humans in the United States. The risk of contracting AI from birds is very low. However, it is important to use foot baths (water with bleach); or use site-only footwear; or site-provided boot covers (plastic disposable bags). Use common sense with foot baths and change the water as needed to maintain effectiveness. Always wash your hands after handling chickens or turkeys.

For more information about the Avian Bird Influenza, please look at our resources list above provided by Dr. Tom Tabler.

~ Caroline Ideus & Samantha Goyret
Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network Team