INDIANAPOLIS — In light of recent reports of sick and dying songbirds throughout the state, veterinarians with the Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) are encouraging hobby flock owners to take steps to protect their poultry.
Late last week, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) advised Hoosiers to remove bird feeders in an effort to deter the yet-unidentified source of illness and death. Since then, owners of chickens, ducks and other backyard poultry have been asking about the risk to their flocks.
“Currently, we do not know what is causing songbirds to become ill or to die,” said Bret D. Marsh, DVM, Indiana state veterinarian. “We are coordinating with Indiana DNR to investigate reports of sick birds. However, laboratory testing has not yet determined if this is a disease or some other agent.”
Without specific information on the cause, poultry owners are encouraged to protect their chickens, ducks, turkeys and other domestic species from any potential exposure to wild birds.
“We always recommend good biosecurity for small flocks,” said Marsh. “When something unknown and unforeseen like this happens is when keeping flocks secure really pays off.”
Good biosecurity practices mean keeping poultry safe from unseen pathogens that can be brought into the coop by other birds (wild or domestic); other animals, like feral cats; or humans who may carry disease-causing germs on their hands, clothing or shoes.
Deter contact with wild birds by keeping poultry in a fenced space and contain them to the coop or barn at night. Do not feed chickens outdoors where wild birds may feed, too. Clean and sanitize feed pans and waterers.
Poultry owners should also follow DNR’s recommendation to remove bird feeders (including hummingbird feeders) until the situation is better understood.
Marsh noted that small flock owners should remain vigilant in watching their poultry for signs of illness or disease. Any unusual or unexplained death loss or illness should be reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Healthy Birds Hotline: 866-536-7593.
Illness or death in wild bird species should be reported to the Indiana DNR at on.IN.gov/songbirddeaths.
More information about good biosecurity practices for hobby poultry flocks is online at www.in.gov/boah/species-information/avianbirds/small-flock-and-exhibition-poultry/.