Abstract Background Avian influenza virus (AIV) outbreaks are worldwide threats to both poultry and humans. Our previous study suggested microRNAs (miRNAs) play significant roles in the regulation of host response to AIV infection in layer chickens. The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis if genetic background play essential role in the miRNA regulation of AIV infection in chickens and if miRNAs that were differentially expressed in layer with AIV infection would be modulated the same way in broiler chickens. Furthermore, by integrating with parallel mRNA expression profiling, potential molecular mechanisms of host response to AIV infection can be further exploited. Results Total RNA isolated from the lungs of non-infected and low pathogenic H5N3 infected broilers at four days post-infection were used for both miRNA deep sequencing and mRNA microarray analyses. A total of 2.6 M and 3.3 M filtered high quality reads were obtained from infected and non-infected chickens by Solexa GA-I Sequencer, respectively. A total of 271 miRNAs in miRBase 16.0 were identified and one potential novel miRNA was discovered. There were 121 miRNAs differentially expressed at the 5% false discovery rate by Fisher’s exact test. More miRNAs were highly expressed in infected lungs (108) than in non-infected lungs (13), which was opposite to the findings in layer chickens. This result suggested that a different regulatory mechanism of host response to AIV infection mediated by miRNAs might exist in broiler chickens. Analysis using the chicken 44 K Agilent microarray indicated that 508 mRNAs (347 down-regulated) were differentially expressed following AIV infection. Conclusions A comprehensive analysis combining both miRNA and targeted mRNA gene expression suggests that gga-miR-34a, 122–1, 122–2, 146a, 155, 206, 1719, 1594, 1599 and 451, and MX1, IL-8, IRF-7, TNFRS19 are strong candidate miRNAs or genes involved in regulating the host response to AIV infection in the lungs of broiler chickens. Further miRNA or gene specific knock-down assay is warranted to elucidate underlying mechanism of AIV infection regulation in the chicken.