Avian pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC) causes economically significant infections in poultry. The genetic diversity of APEC and phylogenetic relationships within and between APEC and other pathogenic E. coli are not yet well understood. We used multilocus sequence typing (MLST), PCR-based phylogrouping and virulence genotyping to analyse 75 avian E. coli strains, including 55 isolated from outbreaks of colisepticaemia and 20 from healthy chickens. Isolates were collected from 42 commercial layer and broiler chicken farms in Sri Lanka. MLST identified 61 sequence types (ST) with 44 being novel. The most frequent ST, ST48, was represented by only six isolates followed by ST117 with four isolates. Phylogenetic clusters based on MLST sequences were mostly comparable to phylogrouping by PCR and MLST further differentiated phylogroups B1 and D into two subgroups. Genotyping of 16 APEC associated virulence genes found that 27 of the clinical isolates and one isolate from a healthy chicken belonged to highly virulent genotype according to previously established classification schemes. We found that a combination of four genes, ompT, hlyF, iroN and papC, gave a comparable prediction to that of using five and nine genes by other studies. Four STs (ST10, ST48, ST117 and ST2016) contained APEC isolates from this study and human UPEC isolates reported by others, suggesting that these STs are potentially zoonotic. Our results enhanced the understanding of APEC population structure and virulence association.