@lalaland.... thanks for support. I'm starting to think that either I have a much less virulent strain than some of you or that perhaps being broody reared helps them develop stronger immune systems. I also wonder if their environment and forage makes some difference. My hens are kept with my horses and spend a lot of time scratching in the stables and the muck heap and I've even seen them drinking the stinking, disgusting, but no doubt nutrient rich, run off from the muck heap, even though there is clean fresh water available.
@ochochicas ... such beautiful birds! How very sad for you to lose them so young. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to think of moving forward when you have lost so many like that and perhaps a little frustrating to read of someone like myself, having a slightly cavalier attitude to raising more chicks in a Marek's environment. I hope you don't feel like I am rubbing salt in your wounds. I do think it is important for people to be aware that Marek's is perhaps/hopefully not always as bad as you are experiencing. If I am to continue keeping poultry, I need to figure out what will work in my set up.
I had one of my older hens (Molly, my red sex link) started sneezing back in October. She had taken a lot of stick from the adolescent cockerels (before I removed them from the flock) and was very run down. She started moulting too and had quite a hard moult right through the winter. Many days she would feed with the others and then just stand hunched up and sneeze and sometimes she had a frothy eye. I tried putting her in sick bay, but she would not settle and broke out at every opportunity, so I left her to it..... several of the other birds started sneezing too (and wheezing a little... you could hear them on the roost on a night) and in fact, I still have one or two sneezing occasionally. My Marek's girls have been in the same hen house with them all winter and yet they have not sneezed themselves and amazingly all the hens have come through it without treatment and Molly, who was worst affected, is now fully feathered and looking and acting well and laying almost every day. This tells me that maybe the environmental conditions are playing a part in boosting their immune system, as I would imagine Molly was not broody reared.... I bought her from a friend who got her from a poultry dealer and being a sex link, she would most likely have been commercially reared in an incubator.
It is a constant source of wonder to me how creatures seem to survive and thrive on the very "filth" that revolts us.....my bees can often also be found foraging on my urine soaked, stale horse bedding. Yet my hens and bees survive untreated against the odds. I am not advocating slovenliness by any means, but there is a value in "dirt" that creatures naturally recognise but that our modern day society has lost sight of.