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Necropsy revealed Marek's disease. Need help saving the other babies!!

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

Hi hi!  In the past week, I have lost three growouts.  They were 10 weeks old.  The necropsy revealed they died of Mareks disease, one had 2-8mm lesions all inside her.  They were all mottled houdans.  I still have a polish and 4 silkies that were the same age mixed with some cochin bantams that are about 7 weeks old.  The silkies and the cochins seem to eat more than normal small birds and they have always felt a little 'boney' (not gaining enough weight). 


I know that they have all been exposed to Marek's disease and will be carriers for life.  I've started supplementing their water with vitamins.  I need any help you can provide.  My older birds likely got this last fall.  I lost a few in January.  Looking back, they probably died from Marek's disease too. 


Should I just cull the babies?  These are more like pets than livestock for me... actually healing birds for my cancer.  Now they have tumors. 


Antibiotics won't help with the lesions?  Will anything?  Can I prevent them from getting lesions?  Does ACV in the water help or would the vitamin supplement do better?  Too late to vaccinate?  Should they be fed something different?  I'm worried that the disease won't kick in strong until right around the time of laying and there is nothing I can do to prevent the incoming doom and gloom.  I look at the babies, running around and playing and worry.  I am so so very worried. 


Thanks in advance for any help.  (I've read the great marek's thread). 

post #2 of 4



So very sorry to hear of your diagnosis but don't lose hope. I had an outbreak of Marek's in my flock a couple of years ago, so I understand how devastating it can be but culling birds that are not showing symptoms makes no sense to me. I broody hatch and rear chicks from my own flock and last year I only had one chick show definite Marek's symptoms and she has made it past point of lay. I lost several the first year and I had two that were horribly lame for months and one in particular that couldn't stand and had to be propped up in a nest for weeks, made a miraculous recovery and went on to lay eggs, although sadly she was victim to a fox last summer, What I learned from her was that company of other hens, sunshine and grass do wonders. I know it is a temptation to isolate them when they are sick but if you can support them within the flock or give them a low ranking pal in sick bay, it really keeps them happy and motivates them to fight it. I initially gave mine turmeric and black pepper which is supposed to be good at reducing/preventing tumours but after a few days they got sick of it and refused to eat it so I decided it was more important that they ate their food than that it was medicated or even nutritiously balanced. I gave them whatever they liked and would eat with enthusiasm... mostly scrambled eggs and mixed corn and porridge and meat scraps and meal worms. I always use ACV in the water anyway and I put them out on the lawn in the sunshine in a cage whenever possible. Gradually I got to the stage that I could let them out of the cage on a night and they would make their own way back to the hen house and eventually they were able to free range with the flock again.


I can't advise on vaccination I'm afraid but I wish you lots of luck with the ones you have left as well as with your own health. Try not to worry and don't give up hope.


Best wishes



Edited by rebrascora - 5/19/16 at 4:30pm
post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 

Thank you Barbara. Such a kind response from someone who has lived through this.  The vet highly recommended breeding for resistance and not to buy or bring in anymore new birds.  So.. I guess for now we just wait.  The cochin bantams are spunky and lively.. such little dolls.  The silkies.. one is so very frail.  I was keeping her with one of the houdans because she seemed to keep Seven in good spirits and she was so sweet and docile.  I'm afraid though that I may have exposed her to too much virus.  This is where I get confused.  Is there only one exposure or does multiple exposures make the bird weaker? 


How much ACV do you add to the water?  Do you use a plastic waterer or a pipe with chicken nipples? 

post #4 of 4

I have a gallon plastic waterer and I add a splash, which amounts to about a tablespoon, before I fill it up. I have about 30 chickens, so this lasts a day, so it gets scrubbed and refilled each night, but they do free range so they have access to and often drink from dirty puddles etc as well....sometimes I really don't know why I bother!! 


It's good to hear that the vet recommended breeding for resistance. I believe the official line used to be "cull the whole flock" and sometimes opinions like that are not reviewed and updated and old school thinking prevails.


I currently have 9 bantam cochins (we call them pekins in the UK) that are 2 weeks old. and cute as buttons! This breed is a relatively new addition to my poultry keeping. The parent stock have not been exposed to my flock, as I only bought them a couple of months ago and keep them at a separate location, but the eggs were hatched and are being reared by a broody within the flock that has been exposed/infected, It will be interesting to see if it is exposure from day one that allows them to build resistance(a bit like the vaccine does) or if it is in the breeding. I know that sounds a bit callous, like I'm experimenting with their lives, but after so little problems with last year's chicks showing Marek's symptoms, I'm not sure breeding for resistance can be so effective after just one generation. My main flock now consists of mostly farmyard mutts and that may have something to do with their vigour and resistance, but my money is on low level exposure from the start.


I'm sorry to hear your silkie is not too good at the moment. I'm of the opinion that once the flock has been exposed, it's pointless isolating sick birds and since dander dust gets everywhere, and that is the means of infection, just flapping their wings will result in it being shed into the air and potentially inhaled by others. It can travel on your clothes hair and shoes as well as in the air, so isolation isn't always effective anyway and I think there is an element of some birds will just be more susceptible. Reducing stress and keeping them as happy as possible is the key in my experience.


The two seriously disabled ones that I put together, had the most shocking fight when I put the second one in my little infirmary. I thought the first one was at deaths door (it was her second and more severe bout of Marek's paralysis) and I had more or less given her a date to be euthanized as she was nest bound and soiling herself every day with no improvement for weeks. Once the second one "invaded" her hospital space, she decided she had something to fight for and it was quite shocking to watch two really handicapped birds fighting.. After they established the pecking order and the death's door one amazingly won!! they became good pals and grew stronger together and competed for food which is always a benefit to keep them eating. Once the weather was better and I put them outside for a few hours a day on grass, they really started to show significant improvement.


Try not to beat yourself up or look to blame yourself. You are doing your best for them. Go with your gut feeling about what is best for them. Sadly some will die despite your best efforts.... it is the way of the world.... but rejoice in the ones that rally, as they are the ones that give hope.

I can't say whether your silkie will make it or not but all you can do is give her as good quality of life as you can and be prepared to end it for her if it becomes intolerable.


Good luck



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