Do we have Marek's?!


In the Brooder
5 Years
Sep 14, 2014
We've been having some issues with one of our chickens, Red. I posted before about this and got a quick response but would really appreciate a couple more opinions. We've had a friend look at her who did not mention Marek's, and the flock she came from has no history of Marek's. We got her in June, and I'm going to just post everything we've experienced with her. I appreciate input from some more experienced chicken owners. We have one other chicken, Bertha, and we're getting ready to expand our flock but I don't want to make any rash moves until this is sown up.

Here is what Red and her eggs were displaying in the weeks leading up to this:

-June: Loss of scales on feet (we thought scaly mites and treated as such. She improved and our other chicken, Bertha, who was starting to have a couple raised scales now has completely healthy feet). Since the paralysis has begun, her scales have begun falling off.

-July: All seemed well, chickens are happy and healthy. We built them a new, improved coop.

-August: The next symptom I noticed were irregular egg shells. The pointed end of the shell seemed wavy, like a ripple in a pond, but obviously in the shell. She also laid a single egg without a shell.

-September 1 or 2: Limping on right foot begins. Both feet are covered white and crusty with raised scales. Assuming that she had mites again, I give her a foot bath and coat with canola oil. A couple of days later the whiteness and crustiness has receded. A friend stops by to help examine, says that she think she sees an injury on her limping foot so she is cleaned and treated with blu-kote. She reacts to being touched and has some resistance when handled. Foot is curled. She hobbles along fine. Still lays eggs. I notice briefly that she tends to close her right eye when resting but snaps open when being handled.

-September 5- Her right foot is stretched out and doesn't react to touch. Blu-kote has dried out the foot and it's cracked in parts and bleeding. I soak her and coat with Canola oil. An egg with a mottled yolk is laid. She continues laying about every other day. She can't get up to her roost though so she lays eggs on the ground. She is breathing through her mouth heavily but we attribute that to the heat.

-Sept 20: Right Foot and leg are paralyzed completely up to her hip, she is losing weight, occasionally closing her right eye, and seems to have no appetite, though her crop does not feel backed up. Heavy mouth breathing continues, days are in the 90s. We isolate her and begin feeding her lots of greens and tomatoes to up her vitamin intake. Limp comb.

-Today: Still no laying, she has either lost or plucked the belly feathers, still paralyzed in her right leg, which has also lost a significant amount of muscle mass. She has green feces (brooding?) She is breathing heavily through her mouth (days in the 90s) and occasionally closes her right eye, cannot tell why. No swelling or injuries or other signs of bumblefoot. We have been giving her aspirin. Her appetite seems back to normal. The right leg doesn't seem to have the strength it once did but still reacts to touch and has resistance when handled.

*Other information: Our other chicken, Bertha, is completely healthy, and the flock we got the chickens from in June has no history of Marek's disease, though I read it could have come over on the wind from a neighboring flock (the nearest flock is 3 houses away, about 100 yards through fencing and houses).

Here's a video of Red trying to stand up.


Here are some pics of her belly, eye, and poo. Any feedback or advice is MASSIVELY appreciated. THANK YOU!

Her vent.

No visible wounds or signs of bumblefoot, we Blue-Koted her foot just in case.

Her unparalyzed foot
She may very well have mareks but, the heat is making her suffer much more than she has to. Have any of your birds received Mareks vaccination as chicks? I don't believe shots in an older bird are of any use. I think a positive diagnosis of Mareks requires a vet examination and probably a blood test. Birds that survive Mareks are carriers for life. I'm very sorry for you and her. I would get her out of the heat, and see if lots of cool water and feed could perk her up. Is there any chance she has had heat stroke?

Please do post in detail at "emergencies, diseases, injuries, cures," thread . You may also want to post on the Marek's threads in case anyone has advice to offer you.
Thanks! Where we have her separated is well shaded and luckily the temperature has been down in the upper seventies for the last few days. She had no appetite yesterday, but gobbled up all the food we gave her today. Our local chicken vet charges $75 just to look at the bird and then an extra charge for the Marek's test, so we are talking well over $100 to have her tested, which is way out of our price range right now. She seems to be getting stronger, but that leg is still not moving.

Poor Red passed away today. From the level of rigor mortis set in when I found her, I'm thinking it happened btwn 3 and 3:30 pm. Not sure if the heat today (early 90's) did her in. Will do necropsy to finally get to the bottom of this. Updates to follow...
Thanks for the links. We were too far away to get her to a state vet in a timely fashion, and really wanted to learn about this, so we did the necropsy ourselves.

It sure looks like Merak's. Her pancreas was just covered in the telltale Herpes-like tumors, her left sciatic nerve (the side that had become paralyzed) definitely seemed enlarged as well. We also noticed fluid around her heart and that her kidneys, particularly the left, were very enlarged and were either fatty or had tumors around them as well. I've included some pictures here in case anyone needs a reference.


You can see the heart at top with the pericardium filled with fluid.
Below that is the pancreas with the Marek's tumors, and the
below the pancreas to the left and right are her kidneys.
Both are enlarged but the left is far worse.

A wider shot of her viscera, showing the diseased heart, pancreas, and kidneys.

Her left kidney, with the fat or tumor that was surrounding it.

Her pancreas (and the reason we diagnosed Marek's).

Her right kidney, also with fatty like tumors in the kidney itself - I believe this was another sign of Marek's.

The sciatic nerve. The left three strands coming off the spine are noticeably larger than the right side, though both seem enlarged compared with pictures of normal nerves we found.

I welcome any input and hope this may help others in the same boat.

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