Known case of Marek's- what now?


9 Years
Apr 3, 2010
Apple Valley
Flock problem. I have a hen who I got from a feedstore as a chick. It went through a crazy period of time with the typical marek's leg forward, leg back posture. It couldn't really move, so I kept putting feed and water in front of it, and every day I expected it to die.

The thing is, after a couple of weeks, it got better and is now walking around (not very well, mind you- goes very slow). I did a little research and it seems to be typical Mareks.

BUT, I have had several (three?) chickens die over the past summer. They had some sort of breathing problem, spitting up juice, and just croak over.

What I have left of my flock is 6 healthy cochins, a rock, and the marek bird. The rock is getting sick, the marek is improving, and the cochins are healthy. I don't want anything to happen to the cochins.

Are the other chickens dying of mareks? I fear it is coccidiosis. I noticed some extremely dark stools. They don't get the paralysis that I see. Should I euthenize the marek bird? I really like it. Anyhow, my run seems to be having a biological meltdown :(.

Any ideas would help. Their run and coop are clean. I do use straw though.
When I spoke with a pathologist at the California Animal Food Health Safety Lab on Friday, he said that Marek's was one of the most common diseases that they find when doing necropsies.

Since you live in California, you can send your chickens to one of the CAFHS labs for free necropsies. They'll even let you use their Fed-X account number and bill you for the shipping, which should be much cheaper than regular Fed-X prices. The labs are here:
What you decide to do about your birds probably depends most on what you plan to do in the future with chickens. Marek's is a big deal, but I don't think it's as poultry-career ending as people make it out to be. Some breeds will be more likely to get ill if exposed to Marek's. Some will not. It is a very, very common poultry virus. I don't even think it's possible to have backyard chickens and not come in contact with it at some point (especially if you're the type that goes to chicken swaps). That being said, if you were going to breed or sell chickens, you'd have think really seriously about how to do this safely without selling sick birds to other people. This might not be the best option for you at this point. If you are just keeping these chickens as your pets, you can keep your birds and let the disease run it's course. By this point in time, all of your birds have been exposed as it sounds like they have been living together for a while. Culling the sick one or any of them at this point wouldn't necessarily save your flock as they are already exposed. Unless you are planning to start a breeding program to breed for resistance to Marek's, I would make sure any chicks or chickens you get in the future are vaccinated against Marek's. The virus will live in the soil and dust in your coop for up to a year after there are no living vectors (ie, chickens) in it. An option you will hear is that you could cull your whole flock, leave the coop dormant for a year and start over. I, personally, don't think this is necessary. I know breeders who have invested years in their flocks who would not cull a whole flock for exposure. They vaccinate and cull only affected birds.

Just my two cents.
Coccidia is a different disease process all together and can kill your birds pretty quickly. They generally will have obviously bloody diarrhea and will be sitting around all puffed up. If you don't put them on antibiotics, they can die pretty quickly from this. It's pretty obvious when you see it, especially the puffed up part.
Thanks for all the info. This backyard coop has a bench and these are my pets. I sit at night, throw some feed and just relax. There is only one with mariks, but i think it came that way from the feedstore (Americauna?). I have started the all the chicks on Tetroxy hca-280 ( don't know what it is, but its what the feedstore had and its for chickens). The cochins are all healthy. I do have a rock that seems to have the coccidia.

I only have 8 chickens, and they are for viewing pleasure. I never breed them on purpose or give them away. I am fairly certain the coughing disease came from a chicken I purchased over the summer (from a feedstore 20 miles away). It came with a raspy-wet cough.

I thought chickens lasted forever. But between dogs and disease, I have had a tumultuous turnover. But I suspect the hobby comes with casual loss.

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