Backyard Flocks

Do you own a backyard flock of chickens or other birds? It is critical to take extra precautions to help prevent exposure to disease. While OPA is not the state regulatory agency for small egg producers and meat processors, we are proud to serve as a resource for poultry owners of all sizes to ensure they have the tools and resources they need to run a productive and safe operation.


Established in 1935, the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) is a voluntary, cooperative program between the poultry industry and state and federal agencies that is focused on improving the nation's poultry flocks to ensure a high-quality and safe product for consumers.

NPIP was first developed to eliminate Salmonella Pullorum Disease, which at the time was a major threat to the nation's poultry flocks, resulting in up to 80 percent mortality in chicks. Today, the program has expanded to monitor the testing of multiple poultry diseases, including avian influenza and various diseases produced from Salmonella and Mycoplasma. Industry members and state and federal officials have developed provisions of the NPIP to further protect the nation's flocks.


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OPA is the official state agency administering NPIP in Ohio. There are many benefits to participating in Ohio's NPIP program, but perhaps the most important benefit is allowing the safe movement of hatching eggs and live birds across state lines. If you own poultry of any kind and wish to ship birds or eggs to another state, it is your responsibility to contact the NPIP Official State Agency and/or the State Health Official's Office of the state in which you are shipping to determine the state's testing requirements. State importation requirements can be found here on the NPIP website.

Good biosecurity practices are essential to keep your flock healthy and prevent the spread of disease. Those wishing to participate in the NPIP program should be familiar with the NPIP Biosecurity Principles.

If you are interested in participating in Ohio's NPIP program,
please complete this form.

Upcoming Events

For those interested in becoming an Ohio certified Pullorum tester, a virtual option is available where you may now be certified at any time. If interested, contact Chris Pichler ( with further questions or register and pay at the link below. Once we receive confirmation of payment, a link to the training video and packet of class documents will be emailed to you. Click here to register

Backyard News

Biosecurity resources are available for Ohio poultry producers from the Ohio Poultry Association, The Ohio State University Extension, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, and the United States Department of Agriculture.


  • Set up an enclosure to quarantine new birds from the rest of the flock at least 30 feet away and for at least 30 days
  • Check daily for sneezing, coughing, nasal drainage, swollen eyes, mites, lice, and other health issues
  • If you see or suspect anything unusual, call a veterinarian, your State Animal Health Official, veterinary diagnostic laboratory, or Cooperative Extension Service

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Let's keep our poultry healthy together


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It's hatching season! The best time to implement strong biosecurity is right from the start. Learn how with USDA APHIS Defend the Flock checklists and other resources:

An Update on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza

Biosecurity for Backyard Flocks


One of the most important ways to prevent diseases from entering or spreading within your flock is by recognizing the early signs of infection and knowing how to prevent the spread. Here are a few avian diseases to become familiar with to protect your flock and others from infection.

Poultry flock owners of all sizes share can prevent the introduction and spread of disease on their farms by enforcing biosecurity measures and incorporating recommendations from regulatory programs, such as the United States Department of Agriculture's Defend the Flock Program. This educational program further ensures the well-being of Ohio's chicken and turkey flocks by providing flock owners with the tools they need to ensure they're running a safe operation. Resources provided through this program reflect the knowledge and insights of poultry experts, veterinarians, growers and scientists, and include videos, webinars, checklists and more.

Pullorum Disease

What it is: Infectious poultry disease caused by bacterium Salmonella pullorum, young chicks and poults and backyard flocks are most prone to disease.

Signs & Symptoms: Depression, white diarrhea, dehydration, high mortality rate.

Testing & Prevention: The Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Poultry Association require a negative Pullorum Typhoid test for birds older than 16 weeks of age before being entered in a swap, sale or exhibition. A different test must be used for turkeys. Doves, pigeons and waterfowl are exempt from testing.

Notes: Recovered birds become lifelong carriers and produce Salmonella pullorum-infected eggs, which perpetuates the disease in chicks.

OPA maintains a list of certified testers and can provide contact information for testers in your area. To have your flock blood tested, please complete this form.

Have questions about Pullorum testing? Click here for answers.

Avian Influenza (AI)

What it is: Infectious avian virus commonly known as the "bird flu" that is caused by type A strains of the influenza virus.

Signs & Symptoms: Respiratory symptoms, depression, loss of appetite, decreased egg production, diarrhea, twisted necks, swollen faces and feet, and increased death rate.

Testing & Prevention: Protect flocks from exposure to wild birds and people, equipment, tools, vehicles, etc. that have recently been exposed to other poultry flocks. Follow and implement stringent biosecurity measures to help prevent disease.

Notes: If you'd like to participate in the Ohio AI monitored program, please contact OPA at 614-882-6111 to speak with a bird health programs representative. For more information on AI, please click here .

Infectious Coryza

What it is: Respiratory disease in chickens caused by bacterium Haemophilus paragallinarum that occurs most commonly in semi-mature or adult birds. Outbreaks typically occur when an infected bird is introduced into a flock.

Signs & Symptoms: Swelling of the face, nasal discharge, swollen sinuses, decreased feed and water consumption.

Testing & Prevention: Prevent infection by only introducing birds from flocks that are known to be free of infection. If infection occurs, immediately separate infected birds from susceptible birds, depopulate infected birds and thoroughly disinfect the area.

Notes: Once a flock has been infected with infectious coryza, all birds are considered carriers of the bacterium.

If you notice any of these symptoms or unexpected deaths in your flock, please report them immediately to
OPA (614-882-6111) or the Ohio Department of Agriculture
(Regular business hours: 614-728-6220; After hours: 888-456-3405).


Raising backyard poultry is becoming increasingly popular for many reasons, including consumers' desire to produce homegrown eggs and poultry products. While keeping backyard poultry can be fun and rewarding, owners should be aware that poultry can sometimes carry harmful germs that make people sick. Whether you have a flock of 5 or 500, you should know what measures to take to keep yourself, your poultry and your customers healthy.


A small egg operator, by definition, is an egg producer who maintains 500 or fewer birds per year and sells eggs from a location that is different than where they were produced. Before eggs can be sold to a retailer, restaurant or at a farmers market, a small egg processor must first be inspected by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) Division of Food Safety to be considered an 'approved source.' To request an ODA inspection, click here. Once registered with ODA, a small egg processor must also obtain a license with their local health department to sell eggs at a farmers market.

All eggs must be sold in cartons that are properly labeled with the following information:

  • The name and address of the operation
  • An accurate statement of the quantity of the contents (e.g., 12 eggs, one dozen eggs, etc.)
  • The date the shell eggs were packed into the carton
  • "Ungraded" or "unclassified" label
  • "Mixed size" label
  • Safe handling instructions (sample below) on outside of carton or inside the lid

SAFE HANDLING INSTRUCTIONS: To prevent illness from bacteria, keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly.

Egg cartons may be reused if all non-pertinent information has been defaced from the carton (e.g., original processor's contact information, grading information, dates, etc.) and if the carton is in good condition and free of debris.


Flock owners who want to raise and sell chicken or turkey meat from their farm are not required to complete an inspection or become licensed if:

  • They are growing and processing less than 1,000 birds annually
  • Birds are grown, harvested and processed on the farm
  • Sold directly from farm to consumer or through an established HRI account (hotel, restaurant, institution)

Farms that are processing less than 20,000 birds annually:

  • Must raise, harvest and process birds on their farm
  • Sell birds directly from farm to consumer or through an established HRI account
  • Are not required to complete an inspection, although it is recommended
  • Must acquire a license from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA)

Flock owners with less than 1,000 birds who are interested in selling poultry and poultry products at farmers markets are exempt from Farm Market registration. However, they must register with the Farm Market with the ODA if they are planning to sell two or more food products that are considered "lower risk," as specified by the ODA. Poultry products must maintain a frozen internal temperature of 41°F or below. Click here for more information on selling poultry products at farmers markets in Ohio.


Are you a youth exhibitor or will be showing market poultry at an upcoming exhibition or fair? It takes months of hard work and a keen eye for proper conformation to prepare market poultry for show day.

Watch these videos to learn basic market poultry handling, selection and show prep techniques from Ohio poultry expert Don Monke and representatives of the Ohio State University's Department of Animal Sciences.

Click here for more information from Ohio 4-H about purchasing, caring for and preparing poultry for show day.

Preparing Poultry for Show Day with Ohio 4Hers - Part 1

Preparing Poultry for Show Day with Ohio 4Hers - Part 2

Assessing A Market Bird's Muscle Conformation

Learning Basic Poultry Handling Techniques


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Columbus, OH 43206
(614) 882-6111

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