DNR recommends poultry owners keep flocks safe


As songbirds continue to die across the state due to an unknown ailment, veterinarians with the Indiana State Board of Animal Health, or BOAH, are encouraging poultry owners to keep their birds safe and secluded from other wild birds.

Since late May, there has been an uptick of deaths of several types of birds around the state, including blue jays, robins and cardinals. Symptoms of the unidentified ailment include neurological signs of illness, eye swelling and crusty discharge.

As of July 2, no sick or dying songbirds have been reported in Dubois County, but there have been reports in some surrounding areas such as Warrick and Orange counties. So far, 53 of the 92 Indiana counties have had reports of affected birds.

Indiana State Veterinarian Bret Marsh said in a press release that lab testing hasn’t yet determined if the cause of death is a disease or something else. So far, officials have ruled out Avian influenza and West Nile virus.

"Currently, we do not know what is causing songbirds to become ill or to die," Marsh said in a press release. "We are coordinating with Indiana DNR to investigate reports of sick birds.”

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has since advised Hoosiers to bring birdfeeders inside to potentially deter the spread of the unidentified illness. Recently, the DNR has also received several inquiries from owners of chickens, ducks and other backyard poultry about how to keep their flocks safe.

"We always recommend good biosecurity for small flocks," Marsh said. "When something unknown and unforeseen like this happens is when keeping flocks secure really pays off."

Biosecurity means keeping poultry safe by protecting them from other animals such as feral cats and making an effort to prevent the spread of disease by washing hands and cleaning clothes and shoes often.

The Indiana DNR has also recommended to deter contact with wild birds by keeping poultry in a fenced space and containing them to the coop or barn at night. It is also important to not feed chickens outdoors where wild birds may feed and to sanitize feed pans and waterers often.

The DNR currently has 285 confirmed cases across the state, but estimates raise the number to potentially 1,000 cases or more.

Pets should also be kept away from areas with sick birds or where a bird has died. Birdfeeders should be cleaned with 10% bleach solution before being brought inside.

Marsh also said small flock owners should watch their poultry closely for signs of illness. Any unusual or unexplained death or illness should be reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Healthy Birds Hotline at 866-536-7593. Illness or death in wild bird species should be reported to Indiana DNR at on.IN.gov/songbirddeaths.

More information about good biosecurity practices for poultry flocks can be found at www.in.gov/boah.

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