With recent reports of sick and dying songbirds in Ohio and surrounding states, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) are encouraging hobby and backyard poultry owners to take steps to protect their flocks.
In an effort to deter the yet-unidentified source of illness and death, ODNR is advising Ohioans to stop feeding wild birds and remove and clean bird feeders, particularly if they are seeing sick and/or dead birds in their area.
“Presently, we are not sure what is causing these illnesses and deaths in songbirds,” said Dennis M. Summers, DVM, DACVPM, Interim-State Veterinarian for Ohio. “We are communicating with ODNR to assist in the reporting of sick and dying birds. Laboratory testing is being conducted, but the cause has not yet been determined.”
Poultry owners are encouraged to protect their chickens, ducks, turkeys, and other domestic species from any potential exposure to wild birds.
“Prevention is the best strategy at this point. Maintain good biosecurity practices to reduce the risk to your flocks,” says Dr. Summers. “Biosecurity refers to everything that owners do to keep diseases away from their flocks. It is an active effort that owners can practice every day.”
Good biosecurity practices include keeping visitors to a minimum, washing your hands before and after contact with live poultry, and using disposable boot covers or disinfecting boots after contact with flocks.
Clean and sanitize feeders, waterers, and other equipment. Monitor for dead or dying wild birds on the property and reduce exposure to feral animals that may carry dead birds to your property. Keep poultry in a fenced space and contain them to the coop or barn when possible.
“It is critical that flock owners look for signs of illness and report any unusual illnesses in your birds,” says Dr. Summers.
Report sick birds. Don’t wait. If your birds are sick or dying, call a local veterinarian, cooperative extension service, or state veterinarian's office (614-728-6220). You can also call the USDA sick bird reporting line, toll-free at 1-866-536-7593.
Illness or death in wild bird species should be reported to ODNR at: Bird Disease Reporting | Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ohiodnr.gov)
More information about good biosecurity practices for hobby poultry flocks is online at: USDA APHIS | Defend the Flock - Biosecurity 101