Board of Animal Health Warns Poultry Owners Should Take Precautions Over Bird Illness

June 28, 2021

The agency that oversees animal health in the state warns that hobby poultry flock owners should take steps to protect their poultry from an illness affecting songbirds across the state.

The Indiana State Board of Animal Health said owners should try to keep their chickens, ducks and other backyard poultry away from wild songbirds until more is known about the illness.

Songbirds with neurological problems, eye swelling and crusty discharge have been reported in at least 15 Indiana counties, five other states and Washington, D.C.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory and the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center are investigating the illness.

“Currently, we do not know what is causing songbirds to become ill or to die,” said Indiana State Veterinarian Dr. Bret D. Marsh. “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.”

Samples sent to the laboratory have tested negative for avian influenza and West Nile virus, although final test results are pending.

DNR has recommended Hoosiers take down birdfeeders and bird baths until the source of the illness is discovered.

Marsh said poultry owners should also keep their poultry away from songbirds by keeping them in fenced spaces and keep them in coops or barns at night.

Chickens should not be fed outdoors where wild birds can feed, and feed pans and waterers should be sanitized.

Marsh said small-flock owners should keep watching their poultry for signs of illness or disease, and any unusual or unexplained deaths or illness should be reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Healthy Birds Hotline at 866-536-7593.

Wild songbird deaths should be reported to DNR’s wildlife reporting tool.

People should avoid handling dead birds unless they are wearing disposable gloves. The bird should be placed in a sealable plastic bag and disposed of with household trash while being kept away from pets.

Board of Animal Health Warns Poultry Owners Should Take Precautions Over Bird Illness