@minniechickmama do you get your local vet to do all your testing? Who does npip in our area, or how does that even work?
@lalaland I didn't think about that aspect. That makes sense!! Maybe that's why my flock has done well. I haven't had any sudden deaths, I did have one young hen have something very similar to mareks, but in the end run I believe it was a genetic factor because only the birds from the same shipped in eggs had any issue. No other young birds the same age, unvaccinated, suffered any issues. They are all big and healthy. What I was wondering is if birds can be born with an inability to process certain minerals or vitamins, like some people. That little chick and her sister's symptoms mimicked a mineral deficiency even though they had access to everything. It was really confusing. Needless to say, they didn't make it... only keeping strong birds.
You would need to contact the state poultry office, I can get the info and PM it to you. Testing must be done by a certified tester or state poultry vet.
Testing for flock certification or NPIP in MN requires and annual inspection and Pollorum and Typhoid Salmonella testing of all birds for the initial certification year. Subsequent years there are other options.
The easiest thing to do is to get certified yourself for the testing then you can do all of your own. The class is usually in April and fills up fast, but you can check with them about that. So far, AI is not required for NPIP in MN, but it is for several other states, especially after the last outbreak. If you have waterfowl, they won't test you or will at least try to talk you out of it.
Now, the other thing. Mareks IS everywhere. You can get it from small flocks as well as hatcheries and everything in between. Talking to the state people about it, they may tell you that it isn't, but you talk to people in the showing a breeding community and they will tell you, it is everywhere. The most common method of dealing with it is to cull birds that are symptomatic .
That being said, there are other things that might have the same symptoms of Mareks, like toxins in the bird, or vitamin deficiency of some sort like you mentioned. I spent 4 years trying to figure out why I had Buckeye chicks develop this head tucking problem. I had a small percentage this happened to and I just culled those that showed this problem for the first couple of years. Then someone who got Buckeyes from me sent me a message mentioning this problem and said she treated them with PolyViSol baby drops and it cleared up. I kept researching and finally two years ago found exactly what I was looking for, which was that it was a Vitamin E/selenium deficiency. However, it wasn't that it was the problem with the chicks, but that the PARENTS were low on this. Crazy huh? But I figured that out because I had chicks in the hatcher that would come out with their heads all jacked up. Since they were not fed anything yet, it had to have something to do with what they were provided in the egg. So, if momma hen was low on Vit E, then she didn't pass enough into the egg, so the chicks were the ones who were showing the problems. I changed feed with higher Vit E/selenium and I think I had two last year out of about 250 chicks hatched. So, it isn't gone completely, but that was a huge improvement over 6% of the chicks, which is what I figured I was getting when it first showed up.
So, that bad batch of chicks, could very well have been Mareks, but it could have just been either poor genetics, like you said, or poor diet of the parent birds or some deficiency on their end at least.
After trying to ship countless eggs in to hatch, I discovered one thing about trying to incubate and hatch shipped eggs, OFTEN (too often) there is something that happens that you can get most or all of the fertile eggs all the way to Day 18-20 and they die without even pipping the membrane or they get that far and they die. I don't know why or how that could be, but after all the ones I went through just to have them die at the end, I figure there must be something that does happen to the eggs during that shipping that weakens or does something to the embryo that they are just not vigorous enough to get out. I concluded this after literally, hundreds of eggs I bought and had shipped with 4 different incubators. It is SO frustrating. If you want to get good stock of the breeds you want to raise though, that is what you have to go through. I don't dare go back and figure up how much I spent over those first couple of years on eggs and tell my husband about it, he would freak. It paid off, for the most part, however, the best birds I have are those I picked up in person.