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Flock slowly being wiped out - possibly mareks??

post #1 of 70
Thread Starter 

Hi all, I would welcome some advice, this is actually about my friends flock but as the main supplier of her birds, I feel somewhat responsible.


My firend Rudi had an already established flock of 8 birds but these were reduced down to 1 after a fox attack last spring.


 I bought six new hens from a local farmer and I gave two, a white star and a columbine to her.  I then put my incubator on to hatch her a new flock from my birds.   


I always quarentine my birds before adding them to the flock but she put her two straight in with the lone one.


My birds are all fine and well and are showing no symptoms of anything at all, I dont vaccinate them against mareks as it is actively advised against here in the UK but I do treat them with ampro every 6 months.


Then Rudi's hens started dying.  The first to die was the white star from the farmer, she was off her food and a little down in the dumps but neither my friend Rudi or I thought it was serious, I gave her some ampro but a few days later she died.


Rudi then went and bought four more birds who were injected with 'something' on the day that they were collected.  Rudi trusted the woman and didnt ask what or why she was injecting them.  These were silkies and polish.


(A recent call to this lady resulted in a denial that they were given anything which makes me wonder if she had a mareks flock and had injected the birds before selling them but this is just conjecture.  Rudi said that the lady had just kept telling her that it wasnt her fault and Rudi should go see a vet.  It seemed very odd.)


Rudi's birds then started dying, I have given her eight young pullets and one by one these all went the same way as the white star.  I gave her 4 more pullets after treating her flock with ampro and digging over the field where there was standing water.  These all died except one which is in intensive care see below.


They didnt all die at once they seemed to take turns and have died over a few months, the symptoms seem to be lethargic until they lose ability to walk, this happens within a day or two then on the third day they are dead.


I have collected the last hen from her who a week ago started showing symptoms and I have it in my lounge where it is recieving intensive care.  I am putting ampro in her water and giving her chick crumb, yoghurt and apple sauce mixed with boiled egg yolk.  She is still alive and eating but cannot walk or hold her head up.


Every bird has had the same symptoms of lethagie and weakness before very quick death within a few days.  I would suspect poison except the original fox survivor, the columbine and the four injected ones are all still alive which seems unusual.


Rudi rang the vet who quoted a ridiculous price to test for mareks and gave the conclusion that she would be better killing the whole flock and starting again.


So, is it possible that birds who hacve just been innoculated can be carriers of mareks but survive it themselves.  Do some birds have a natural immunity against it?  Are the pullets dying because they were younger and more vunerable?


The odd one out to me is the white star because the other five birds that I bought at the same time as her did not get ill but she seemed to be the start of it all.  Also the what was the mystery injection that the woman is denying and why deny it if it was just vitamens etc?


If the hen in intensive care in my lounge survives, will she be a carrier?


And is it even mareks?


I have contacted other people who I have sold my hens to and they dont have any problems.

post #2 of 70
Hi, first I'll advice you to change the coop or clean it with dis-infectants a week or three days before introducing new chickens and ofcoures isolate them from older ones. Secondly, you can google for signs of mareks to make sure you're thinking of the right thing. And you should check the poo color, and any other thing you may notice on the bird, that would help identify the exact problem. Put some glucose in the suck bird's water cos most time they couldn't eat enough food and die sterving. Don't tell the vet that you suspect marek, just call the vet to see what's going on with the flock. The vet might notice what you couldn't get to notice.

Best of luck.
post #3 of 70
Thread Starter 

Thank you.  I have kept a few pullets aside to give her but I am loathe to give her anything until the mystery is sorted out.  I do actually suspect mareks quite strongly because the symptoms do seem to indicate a sudden immune deficiency and they do lose balance and look somewhat drunk before they die and of course it is so quick to kill them.  


We have had so much rain this year that the ground is constantly muddy and i did also wonder if it could be a fungal cause but there are hens who are absolutely fine in the same flock.   She did wipe the coop all over in the summer with petrol which is apparently the cheapest and most efficent disenfectent but I have told her to use a proper disenfectant that is known to kill mareks.  I think she is determined that it isnt mareks but may have to face that it is.  I dont believe she will despatch her remaining birds as they arent ill.


I have spoken to my vet who basically says she would do a pre or post mortem analysis to see ifs mareks for definate but that its impossible to diagnose from my story.

post #4 of 70
Thread Starter 



So you can see that she is slumped on her leftside, she can crawl about but its in jerks rather than fluid motion and her head falls to the left side when she is relaxed.  She looks a little aneamic but not overly in my opinion.  her pooh is dark brown and solid but there is no red blood in it although the dark colour may indicate bleeding in the small intestine rather than the large I believe.

post #5 of 70



I have Marek's in my flock and my experience of it is quite different, so I'm not totally convinced this is what your friend's flock is suffering from.


Whilst Marek's can cause them to die quickly sometimes without any warning, the most common symptom is for them to show some paralysis first.... A perfectly healthy looking chicken that was fine yesterday, will suddenly be lame. Usually they will eat and drink with gusto but be unable to use a wing or a leg or sometimes their neck twists. I've had them go several weeks with quite severe paralysis... unable to stand but still be pink in the comb and healthy looking and enthusiastic about eating. Your friend's birds sound like they are uncoordinated because they are weak and their system is shutting down. I'm not saying that Marek's can't exhibit like that but for all the birds to go that way is unusual.


It sounds to me like it could be coccidiosis and I appreciate that they have been treated with amprollium but I would query whether they got a full treatment doze, rather than a preventative level doze or that they had access to other water and didn't drink the treated water if it was in fact put in their water. This is not intended as a criticism of your ability to administer amprollium but just wondering if these bases had been covered especially as we are talking about your friend's flock. 


The chicken pictured looks anaemic which might be cocci, worms or even red mites, How old is she and what does she weigh? Have they been treated for worms? If she dies, perhaps you or your friend could open her up and see what you find, if a veterinary exam is going to be so expensive. It is how I diagnosed my flock's Marek's..... I found large tumours and together with the paralysis and wasting away, despite eating well and the age of the birds affected,, it ticked all the boxes 


If it is something simple like worms, you will see them in her digestive tract...gross I know, but important to check... Cocci would require microscopic examination I guess but if you are confident that the treatment level and delivery system of the amprollium was adequate for an outbreak, then you can rule that out.


Some birds will be resistant to diseases, worms and other parasites whilst others will succumb, it's just one of those things.... same with any creature.


Whatever injection the breeder may or may not have given the birds your friend got from her, if it was for Marek's, it would be ineffective at that stage in my opinion, so that sounds like it may be some misunderstanding on your friend's part. It wouldn't explain why those birds are still alive and unaffected if this is in fact Marek's. 


Anyway, apart from giving her a vitamin supplement and some probiotics and whatever she will eat, that's really all I can suggest at the moment based on my own experience.


I have to say, my gut feeling would have been some kind of poisoning if I was confident they had been effectively treated for coccidiosis.


Good luck with that hen and hopefully getting to the bottom of the problem.






PS. I broody rear chicks within my flock now and I'm having much less problems with Marek's and I haven't even tried to it would be a physical impossibility because of the area and buildings that my chickens free range in.   

post #6 of 70
Thread Starter 

Thank you for all that information and actually its sort of reassuring, I am sure that they have had enough dosage of ampro in fact if anything I would be more concerned of an overdose than an underdose.  I also thought poisoning but found it odd that it was only the younger birds, the ones that i bred that died!


I dont believe she has treated hers for worms specifically but I thought the ampro would also get rid of parasites?


I wondered about mites but she insists she has washed everywhere with petrol which should kill them.  I will check her for mites again, maybe i'll ask the kids to look as their eyesight is better than mine.


I thought she had perked up today a little so maybe she is past the worst.  its good to hear that you are over the mareks, do you vaccinate?

post #7 of 70
Dark brown, brown,and all gray white poops all indicates coccidiosis. I think there is a kind of resistance in the cocci treatment. But what ever its the case, I suspect they die sterving cos medication without enough food may result to death. So try adding glucose to their medicated water and make sure they drink it cos this one looks too weak to eat. And let your vet see what's going on. He/she might see what we don't see.

post #8 of 70

If a vet or vet college could perform a necropsy on a chicken that has died and the body refrigerated, they may be able to diagnose "possible Mareks' without the expensive testing. Here in the US, the price of Mareks testing is around $28 at some testing centers such as Texas A&M. Mareks causes tumors throughout the body inside on the organs and it may show up that way. Of course coccidia can be a problem since there are more than 9 strains, some of which are chronic forms. Aspergillosis from mold is another disease that can affect much of the body, and could be diagnosed with necropsy. In the US most state vets will perform necropsies, but in the UK, I'm not sure how you get them done.

post #9 of 70
Thread Starter 

Thank you all so much for your suggestions.


Vet treatment here in the UK is prohibitively expensive, Rudi was quoted 120 pounds for tests to determine Mareks.  There is a charity vet but they are unfamiliar with chicken diseases, on the whole it seems that the general attitude is to euthanase it/them and start again.  I have rung my vet and the blue cross vet and the RSPCA centre for advice, people on here have been more knowledgable quite frankly.


She is more upright today but still looks ill and pale but I am feeding her every few hours with apple sauce yoghurt and egg yolk, I will add some honey and peanut better today.   She is painfully thin and weighs nothing but she is eating chick crumb and has maintained her apetite all through, one of the reasons that I initially thought mareks.  I have added glucose to her water now too.


I hadnt thought about cocci being resistant and maybe this is what has happened here.   The kids couldnt see any mites on her so I am sure its not mites.   Would cocci give her aneamia?   Also why is she so thin when she has been eating?  If it was poison by a mold wouldnt this be apparent in all the other chickens and wouldnt they have contracted this all at the same time instead of one by one?


I havent entirely discounted mareks but I do think the symptoms are more like cocci but as she has been liberally dosed with ampro I couldnt understand why.  Perhaps this is a particularlty stobborn strain.  Rudi keeps her chickens in a large outdoor run and as it hasnt stopped raining here for months, there has been a lot of puddles and standing water, I guess this a good breeding ground for cocci.


Except (sigh) the first chickens were dying last summer when actually there wasnt too much rain but then I dont know how often Rudi was giving them clean water.


I have ordered a different brand of amprolium that should arrive today but this is the only coccidiostat that I can find available here, are there different medicines that I can use?

post #10 of 70
If she has been eating then she might have worms in her that shares the food she eats with, but deworming depends on the age of the bird. You can google for worms and how they affect chickens. Am not a vet, so, I can't say if cocci results to aneamia. I just had a two years experience of raising chickens.

I guess your chicken has more than one problem, and that's why things get complicated. That's exibitng more than one symptom.

Am so glad you put some glucose to them, I hate to here/read a chicken is sick or dead. If the youghot has probiotics, keep it steady untill the chicken is 6-10 weeks old, or use human baby milks that contain probiotics. I use baby milk to raise 45 chicks and now they're big girls laying at 98 percent daily.

I pray your friend's chicken gets better soon.
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