Resistance to respiratory pathogens, including coronavirus-induced infection and clinical illness in chickens has been correlated with the B (MHC) complex and differential ex vivo macrophage responses. In the current study, in vitro T lymphocyte activation measured by IFNγ release was significantly higher in B2 versus B19 haplotypes. AIV infection of macrophages was required to activate T lymphocytes and prior in vivo exposure of chickens to NP AIV plasmid enhanced responses to infected macrophages. This study suggests that the demonstrated T lymphocyte activation is in part due to antigen presentation by the macrophages as well as cytokine release by the infected macrophages, with B2 haplotypes showing stronger activation. These responses were present both in CD4 and CD8 T lymphocytes. In contrast, T lymphocytes stimulated by ConA showed greater IFNγ release of B19 haplotype cells, further indicating the greater responses in B2 haplotypes to infection is due to macrophages, but not T cells. In summary, resistance of B2 haplotype chickens appears to be directly linked to a more vigorous innate immune response and the role macrophages play in activating adaptive immunity.