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Marek's carriers

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

We have a few bantam hens that we keep primarily as pets. We were unlucky enough to get Marek's in our little brood and have lost 3 hens - 2 Pekins (including a much loved frizzle) and a hybrid. 


We have 2 hens left which are the first ones we bought. They are both now 4 years old. One is a Poland and one is a Pekin. We would dearly love to add new hens to our flock but I am very aware that my two may well be carriers. 


I've read a lot about Marek's and one thing has struck me as confusing. Can an older hen contract Marek's from our two? Is it true that hens usually catch Marek's before 10 weeks of age, so introducing a 16wk old hen should be ok? Two of the hens we had die from this, we had as chicks so they may well have caught it early, however the hybrid we bought when she was already laying. My husband said that he noticed one of the hens where we got her from was limping, so she might have already been infected or our carrier hens might have infected her?


Another issue is that the kids really want to hatch eggs again. In the past I've put them under the Pekin as she's a great mum but I know I can't do that now. I can't get anyone to vaccinate for me (and I'm just not experienced enough to do this myself) so that's out of the question. If I get a cockerel in, would this help to breed resistant hens? But then what about the cockerel, would I not be exposing him to it?

post #2 of 3
Mareks from what I have read usually affects chickens younger than 25 weeks old, but I think that any hen who is not immune or has not been vaccinated, can show symptoms of Mareks 3 or more weeks after exposure. Your hens and your property will have Mareks for as many as 7 years, so I would buy already vaccinated chickens. Young chicks would need vaccination, and 2-3 weeks to develop full immunity before exposing them to the coop environment, feathers, dust, etc.
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

Unfortunately I can't get hold of any vaccinated chicks or hens. We are limited to buying bantams and they just don't seem to vaccinate bantams. The only breeders I can find who do, don't live nearby so we are unable to collect hens.


Neither can I find anyone who will vaccinate chicks for me. I've asked vets, who say no unless I bring them 1,000 chicks as that's the number they normally vaccinate. 


I either get rid of my two and start from scratch (not an option) or we just live with the two little hens which is a real blow as they are getting bored of each other and we love having a little brood of hens scrabbling around the garden.

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