How important is Marek's vaccine?


13 Years
Jul 8, 2010
I am interested in only adding a couple new chickens (will get baby chicks) and am considering getting them from one of our local farm stores.

I called the stores and asked if their chicks are Marek's vaccinated. None of them had any clue of what I was talking about. All of the people I spoke to finally said that they don't think any of their chicks are vaccinated. One store said they are checked for typhoid (?) or maybe TB.

My chickens I currently have were all Marek's vaccinated from where I got them (mypetchicken).

I really don't want to order on line again, cause I only want a couple chickens and also do not want to have to pay the shipping fees.

I don't know about Marek's, what it is, how dangerous it is, and how likely chicks are to have it or get it.

How important is it to have chicks vaccinated for it?
You have asked a hard question. If you have Marek's active in your flock, it is exceedingly important. If you don't it is not very important.

There are three different main types of Marek's. It can attack internal organs, joints, or cause blindness. And there are sub-sets of this. The Marek's in these parts that attacks joints, usually affects legs or wings. In some other places, necks are more affected. Marek's does its damage by causing lesions to grow. Sometimes Marek's will wipe out a flock, but often less than half the chickens ever show the symptoms.

The Marek's vaccine for chickens is actually Turkey Marek's. It does not prevent the chickens from getting Marek's, it prevents the lesions that do the damage from growing. A vaccinated chicken can still get Marek's and pass it on to other chickens, but it will never have the symptoms. Once a chicken gets Marek's, it is a carrier for the rest of its life, whether vaccinated or not. Every chicken in that flock has Marek's.

Should you worry about Marek's in your flock? I do not know. I called my county extension agent, in the phone book under county government. He hooked my up with a chicken expert so I could talk to him about it. We discussed how I manage my chickens. I got them from a hatchery, do not show them, do not bring home any other chickens, hatch replacements from eggs, and basically do not expose mine to any other chicken. I also learned that in my county, we had one reported case of Marek's in over two years. I know not all cases are reported or diagnosed, but that told me it was not an epidemic situation here. In some places it is epidemic.

I decided to not get mine vaccinanted. I don't know if that is the right decision for you. I just tried to show my thought process to maybe help you decide what is the right decision for you. Good luck however you decide to proceed.
Marek's is about the most common poultry disease, but after about 5-6 months of age they're typically resistant. IMO it's not very important; it only vaccinates against the tumors that come with Marek's, not the actual disease. None of mine are vaccinated.
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disease appears in nearly every environment, however the vast majority of fowl do not catch it. What is so detrimental about the disease is that if one does catch it, then it can spread rapidly through your flock.
I have owned birds for years and never used Mareks vaccines. Cleanliness and culling for health are key.
The choice is up to you when it comes to vaccines.
You can also vaccinate your own fowl if you desire
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If you have ever watched a chicken struggle with Mareks you would vaccinate. We tried so darn hard to save our infrected birds last year, but we lost them all. It attacks the nerve cells so the birds aren't initially in pain, just weak and staggering, so you just hope and try so hard to get them well. Sometimes they would rally and we'd think one was goignto make it, then they would crash and we'd have to euthanize. It is just heart breaking.

We vaccinate.
:cool:wow, thnaks for posting oyur ideas and thoughts..
I bought my first flock from a nice group that did vaccinate as chicks. I thought i was being smart! lol so we would have fewer problems.
glad to know its not mandatory for a nice hen life.
going to look up the area/county tho to find out about epidemics..
I have been on the fence about vaccination, so thanks for posting this thread. In the past I have vaccinated as I sell started pullets and wanted to be as conscientious about their health as possible, even though I follow organic/natural health practices as a rule. However, the vaccine does not guarantee immunity. There are actually 7 different strains of Marek's (a herpes family virus).

As I raise a lot of chickens, I have had losses due to Marek's, but very few. Some breeds/blood types (of which chicken's have 12) are more susceptible to this disease. My losses were with Silkies and with bantam Barnevelder, which are both highly vulnerable. I have had a few chickens with Marek's like symptoms, but blood tests came back negative, and my vet & I believe that the conditions these birds experienced was most likely a reaction to one of the agents in a vaccine.

In discussion about the importance of this vaccine amongst my fellow poultry club members, the folks who had the largest losses were from clutches of hatchery sourced birds, or when they raised their own birds on a very large, intensive scale.

For now, I still have hatchery sourced birds vaccinated, and don't vaccine the birds that I hatch via incubator or that broody hens raise. None of the chickens I have that were raised by hens have ever had Marek's complications. I may stop eventually having the hatchery birds vaccinated, as I feel they may add undue stress. I am trying to get feedback from my client base about their desires for a vaccinated/unvaccinated bird. I have a large tome about Marek's on order at my bookshop to further empower my knowledge base about this disease.

I did just get a book titled, "Poultry Homeopathy", by B.P. Madrewar, a long-time avian vet from India. It cites homeopathic remedies for treating Marek's, though I have thankfully not yet had the opportunity to try them out. The hindustani to English translation is not the best-- I can practically hear the poetic, sing-song Indian voice when I read this which I find charming. Another helpful resource is, "The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm & Stable", by Julliette de Bairacli Levy. This woman is probably one of the most gifted healers that ever lived! She also has herbal treatments recommended to strengthen birds' immunity.
What can it hurt to have them vaccinated? The pro's may out weigh the con's. I had mine vaccinated because it was only a few dollars, the hatchery did it and it gives me peace of mind.

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