Co-operating with Marek's

WeeRadish

Chirping
Jul 2, 2019
40
55
74
Good evening everyone!

I'm not sure if there's a mega-thread for those who have flocks with confirmed marek's disease (is there?), but I'm just posting cuz I need a little support.

Basically, I bought a very young pullet in the summer and voila! She brought marek's disease with her, and I had to cull her in September. I've been keeping tabs on the remaining four birds and I've noticed weight loss in all of them, so it's not looking good.

Well, I learned my lesson! Now I'll only be hatching my own in the future (with the added struggle of proper vaccination protocol :tongue), and I won't be able to give anyone anymore chickens :hit.

I've come to terms with the forseeable status quo, but I'm just looking for some guidance or support. I'm really struggling with the fact that I'll have to cull animals more frequently than I used to. Up until this disease, I've never had to put down a living thing. I feel like I let down my flock in a way. Right now I have a rooster that needs to go, and up until this point I've always rehomed them. And of course, starting next spring, any roosters that I hatch out will have to "go" in a more permanent sense of the word. How do you guys do it? Emotionally I mean. I really wish the vaccine worked in such a way that I could sell them to people still, but it's just not possible.

Thank you to anyone who read through this, it means a lot haha.

signed, a dispirited chicken mom
 

WeeRadish

Chirping
Jul 2, 2019
40
55
74
Yup, they did both. The vet thought the necropsy looked kinda alright, but when the testing came back it confirmed marek's. I've been reading up on a lot of the info for the past couple months! thank you for the threads/website :)
 

Wyorp Rock

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Premium Feather Member
6 Years
Sep 20, 2015
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Good evening everyone!

I'm not sure if there's a mega-thread for those who have flocks with confirmed marek's disease (is there?), but I'm just posting cuz I need a little support.

Basically, I bought a very young pullet in the summer and voila! She brought marek's disease with her, and I had to cull her in September. I've been keeping tabs on the remaining four birds and I've noticed weight loss in all of them, so it's not looking good.

Well, I learned my lesson! Now I'll only be hatching my own in the future (with the added struggle of proper vaccination protocol :tongue), and I won't be able to give anyone anymore chickens :hit.

I've come to terms with the forseeable status quo, but I'm just looking for some guidance or support. I'm really struggling with the fact that I'll have to cull animals more frequently than I used to. Up until this disease, I've never had to put down a living thing. I feel like I let down my flock in a way. Right now I have a rooster that needs to go, and up until this point I've always rehomed them. And of course, starting next spring, any roosters that I hatch out will have to "go" in a more permanent sense of the word. How do you guys do it? Emotionally I mean. I really wish the vaccine worked in such a way that I could sell them to people still, but it's just not possible.

Thank you to anyone who read through this, it means a lot haha.

signed, a dispirited chicken mom
Sorry that your having trouble.
Let's tag in someone that deals with Marek's in their flock.
@microchick any tips for @WeeRadish
 

microchick

Driving my husband crazy 1 chicken at a time!
6 Years
Dec 31, 2014
10,467
48,264
1,177
NE Missouri
Thanks for the tag, @Wyorp Rock.

@WeeRadish, I am so sorry to hear that you are having to deal with Marek's in your flock. I've been dealing with it for almost 5 years now and yes, it is a game changer but one that you can deal with.

My original flock came from an NPIP breeder who bred for resistance. I specifically asked them about MD and vaccination. I was assured that it wouldn't be necessary. That was my first mistake because within a year I discovered that there was indeed Marek's Disease on our property.

After a year of having birds falling over from failure to thrive, neurological problems and infections, I broke down and called the University of Missouri at Columbia and talked to the head doctor in their veterinary lab. Nice guy who listened to me and then sadly told me that it sure sounded like MD to him even without a necropsy, which they would be glad to do for me.

Thing was that I didn't have to go that route as my husband is a retired eye doctor and I had two birds pop up with 'gray eye'. I asked him if a herpes eye infection in a bird would look the same as one in a chicken and he assured me that it would. I handed him one of my infected hens and he used a hand held microscope to examine the inside of her eye. His two words...'It's Herpes' changed my flock forever and the severity of the infection was frankly stunning.

The Veterinary doctor at Mizzou was kind and told me to hang in there. Yes, I would lose birds. A lot of birds. But birds would survive and those were the birds that would help me rebuild my flock due to them being truly resistant. I lost 2/3rds of my flock before all was said and done and finally resorted to culling all of my original flock in order to halt the spread of the disease.

My best advice is to wait and see what happens. For me, the strain of MD here was so virulent that my second generation Buff Orpingtons that I hatched from my original flock, died before they were a year old. I finally made the observation that a nearby Amish farmer had what appeared to be a thriving flock of barnyard mixes. My husband suggested I buy some hatching eggs from him and try to hatch some birds that are more resistant to the local strain of MD.

One day he found me standing in the yard, staring at the growing flock of local bred birds and asked me if one of them was sick. No, I told him, they aren't dying. Why aren't they dying?

They were resistant. I now have a flock of almost 50 birds, barnyard mixes with the exception of pure bred and vaccinated Old English Game Bantams and Egyptian Fayoumis which are genetically resistant to MD.

My oldest bird is 4 years old now and has outlived my other roosters by 3 years and going strong. My hens are slowly aging and healthy (appearing) I still lose a bird from time to time but the bleed out of having to cull or finding one or two birds dead a week has for now stopped.

I know that it's still here and I do not bring in any unvaccinated birds nor do I let my birds leave the nearby neighborhood. The way I see it, Marek's Disease is in the air and the dander that spreads it can travel 5 miles so any birds within a 5 mile radius of our farm probably has the same strain of Marek's on it already and their birds if they have them, have already been exposed and building resistance or succumbed to the disease.

It's not hopeless, @WeeRadis but you do have a challenge in front of you. How did I deal with the emotional battering? Oh, I shed many a tear over a lifeless little body of a favorite bird that I just put down. I cuddled many a birds that I had just discovered terminal tumors on them that hadn't been there the week before. Marek's is a heart breaker that is for certain and I got to the point where at the first indication of decline, they go out and do not come back in to the flock. Yes it's sad and you don't get used to doing it but it has to be done and it's part of the responsibility of being a flock owner. Plus it has been found that birds shed an alarming amount of the virus when they are sick/dying from MD.

You are not alone. There are more MD flocks on BYC than you can imagine and we are always here to help.

:hugs :hugs :hugs :hugs :hugs :hugs :hugs :hugs :hugs
 

ackie

previously jwehl // dogs & cats & squirrels oh my!
Nov 3, 2020
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Atlanta GA
One day he found me standing in the yard, staring at the growing flock of local bred birds and asked me if one of them was sick. No, I told him, they aren't dying. Why aren't they dying?
I feel this so hard. Not just about birds, but anytime anything is going well - but wait, wheres the bad stuff?
 

microchick

Driving my husband crazy 1 chicken at a time!
6 Years
Dec 31, 2014
10,467
48,264
1,177
NE Missouri
I feel this so hard. Not just about birds, but anytime anything is going well - but wait, wheres the bad stuff?
You have to understand that I was losing a LOT of birds, sometimes 2 a week. I went from a flock of almost 40 birds to something like 22 in a matter of months. New chicks would mature, thrive, then suddenly before their first birthday, grow sick and die.

When I hated 11 Amish barnyard crosses, I flooded my flock with new birds expecting that over half, closer to 2/3rds were going to just curl up and die on me or have to be put down that I wanted a 'padding' of birds so I would have at least some survivors.

While I kept losing birds first and second generation from my original flock, suddenly it dawned on me that I had only lost one young bird of Amish mixes to Marek's disease in something like 8 months time. I was up to my eyeballs in these little bad attitude game bird crosses that were breeding like mice for me all the while, the original flock of birds was slowly dropping numbers.

That's when it the true meaning of resistance hit me and I knew the best thing for me to do was cull all the original birds and concentrate on birds that have a chance to thrive.

It's not important to me to have pure bred lawn candy type birds. I want birds that will give me eggs, provide emergency meat and most of all not die at warp speed on me and I've finally succeeded in getting that.
 

WeeRadish

Chirping
Jul 2, 2019
40
55
74
@microchick Thank you so much for your heartfelt story, it gives me hope for the future. I guess all I can do is make sure my new chicks get vaccinated, and that I'm prepared to deal with the fallout.

I've always been more of a fancier than a practical chicken keeper, so I don't think the breeds I'm drawn to are particularly resistant. Right now I'm aiming to very carefully hatch and vaccinate chicks and keep them separate until they are old enough to be inoculated. I really hope the vaccine is effective, and I'm able to keep them effectively quarantined, but if not I'll have to change strategies.

Speaking of, does anyone have experience hatching and raising vaccinated chicks at home (away from main flock) until they're ready to go out? Any tips on doing it well, success stories or failures to share?

I live in Ontario, and I have no idea if anyone near me has resistant flocks. Hopefully they're out there, if it comes to that.

Again, thank you everyone for commenting on this, thank you @Wyorp Rock for the ping.
 

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