With 292 pages, I just do not have time to read every post on this thread, so if the information I share is redundant to others' posts, I apologize. This is my story which includes non-typical symptoms of Marek's Disease
A week ago this past Friday I drove 2 1/2 hours to take three chickens to our state Avian vet. Two males, one female. The males were a 5 month old Silkie/Cochin cross, and a Silkied Serama who was THREE DAYS SHY of his 1 year birthday.. The female was an Easter Egger/Barred Rock cross pullet, 3 days shy of 1 year old as well. The silkie cross died two days prior to the trip (I kept him in the refrigerator, triple wrapped in ziplock bags). The Serama died 30 minutes into the trip. The pullet was still alive when I arrived at the state lab.
Symptoms: Silkie cross boy began with slow movement. He would run as if he was just too darn heavy to run fast. When I fed the flocks, he would slowly walk to the feeder and sit down to eat. A couple days later, he was limping. Checked his feet for corns (I call them corns, because that's what they are, but in the chicken world everyone calls it bumble foot) and his feet were fine. Figured he must have sprained his foot jumping down from the roost, blaming it on "I must be feeding him too much, he's getting too fat"...because, at this stage, he didn't have the protruding breast bone. A week later I finally realized it was something more...he was having trouble walking, and when he'd sit down, he'd lay slightly on his left side, one leg out to the side, one leg under him. So I brought him inside to isolate him from the flock. His treatment included daily vitamins (poly-vi sol without iron, vitamin E, and vitamin B complex), turmeric, molasses, and electrolytes...all of this not every day, of course....just listing the treatments throughout the time he was sick before he died. His food consisted of medicated chick start and scrambled eggs.
He got a little worse every week. Pretty soon both legs were to his right as he lay on his left side. I'd end up having to give him a bath every couple of days because the poo would pile up behind him and stick to his feathers. Breathing became labored. He could move his legs...when I'd pick him up, he'd kick them around...he just couldn't use them. His appetite never diminished...in fact, it increased and he ate as if his life depended on it...yet his breast bone protruded and he had lost a lot of weight. On the day he died, I had given him an injection of Tylan, thinking because of his breathing problem, he had developed a respiratory infection, and because he didn't look like he was going to live much longer. He died less than 10 minutes after the injection.
Total length of illness (once symptoms started to show): 8 weeks.
Symptoms: Silkied Serama boy was our number one favorite chicken. He and his flockmates (2 females, and later 3 chicks) were housed inside for the winter after discovering my boy had gotten frostbite. So inside they came, housed in a three-tiered cage by a window for sunlight. Once we began having warm days, I'd move the seramas outside into a moveable run, then bring them back in at night (I'm building a new coop just for the seramas, so they don't have a night time home right now except in my house). About a month after the silkie showed signs of illness, one of my serama girls died suddenly. I do my own necropsies (except the recent three) and discovered she died of peritonitis (her abdomen was filled with yolk). She had NO tumors. After she died, my roo stopped crowing and talking. We thought he was depressed...losing one of his two girls...and blamed the lack of "speech" on her death. This was one of the non-typical symptoms. He just stopped making noise. A few days later, he began to walk like he was drunk. That's the only way I can describe it. He'd sway to the left, then to the right as he would take steps...picture a drunk person trying to walk a straight line. That was my boy. Again, a non-typical symptom of the Marek's I had read about. His balance progressively got worse, to the point where he'd take a step and fall over, and sometimes would fall forward and flip onto his back. Found him on his back quite a few times and I had to flip him back over. His comb, at the back (last two points but including the body of the comb at the back) would turn purple, almost black. I'd give him vitamins, the comb would turn red again. This started about two weeks after he stopped crowing. Non-typical symptom. The last symptom he displayed before he died was his comb flopped onto its side. Then it turned pale (this over the course of a week). Non-typical symptom. Not once during the time he was sick did he suffer from leg paralysis. His legs never went out to their sides or forward. His treatment was the same as the silkie cross, only he also had access to eating grass and bugs during the day when I put them outside. His appetite never diminished, although towards the end his breast bone did protrude.
Total length of illness (once symptoms started to show): 4 weeks
Symptoms: EEx pullet was found by my chocolate lab the day before I made the trip to the lab. The pullet was up under a building...my dog was laying in front of it with her nose shoved in the small space between the ground and the bottom of the building. This space was a place some of my girls laid their eggs, so when I looked under and saw the pullet, I figured that's what she was doing...until I noticed her comb...which was flopped over on it's side. I couldn't reach her, so I grabbed a broom handle and tried pushing her out from the back...and she would flop on her side, and couldn't walk. Finally managed to shimmy her out, and I put her in a dog crate and began treatment with electrolytes and sav a chick. She was very dehydrated, so I am going to say she had been under there more than a day.
Total length of illness (once symptoms started to show): 3 days
The vet, once I arrived, took both dead birds and the live one (he would euthanize her) and told me he would call me with any preliminary findings. I received that call three hours later.
Silkie cockerel: Tumors...intestines and liver. Possible causes: Avian Leukosis, Marek's
Silkied Serama cockerel: Tumors...heart and lungs. Possible causes: Only one. Marek's.
EEx pullet: Peritonitis.
He said he'd been doing this for over 20 years, and he is 99% sure it's Marek's for the boys. Avian Leukosis doesn't cause tumors in the lungs. He would notify me the following week if the labs confirm his prelim. diagnosis.
He called me day before yesterday, said the labs DO confirm they died of Marek's disease. He said although the pullet died of peritonitis, she also had Marek's.
Although the Silkie cross cockerel had displayed typical symptoms, my beautiful serama boy did not. Nowhere...not even the Merck Vet Manual...list pale comb, floppy comb, purple comb, loss of "voice" (stopped crowing), or lack of coordination as symptoms of Marek's disease. I want to make sure this is shared with as many people as I can share it with...these symptoms CAN BE SYMPTOMS OF MAREK'S DISEASE!!!!!!
I also want to share with you the information the vet shared with me regarding the disease...and I TRUST what he tells me...he's been doing this for DECADES.
Marek's is everywhere. It's on your clothes, my clothes, at the grocery store, at our kid's school. There is absolutely NO avoiding it. The dander, which spreads the virus, rides on the wind. It is, aside from Avian Leukosis, the most prevalent and common illness that infects backyard flocks. There is absolutely no bio-security measures you can take to prevent your flock from getting infected, except for vaccinating newborn chicks. Even then there is a small chance they can contract the virus. Therefore, there is ABSOLUTELY NO POINT in a Marek's positive flock owner to destroy all of their birds. Those that survive the virus (if they can make it to slightly over a year old), they have become immune and they DO NOT SHED LIVE VIRUS. Can they carry live virus in their feathers from other birds? Yes...but they cannot shed it themselves.
Again, just wanted to share all of this with my fellow chicken owners. Hopefully my story can help someone.
Thanks for reading.