Mareks Disease


Jun 22, 2012
Port Republic, MD
I have a 3.5 year old dutch bantam that is showing clear signs of Mareks Disease. Both her legs are not unusable and she is refraining from eating. I have not had any new additions to my flock and I stay away from other flocks (although 4 neighbors do have chickens and I can only control wildlife but so much).

1. Has anyone had any survivals with Mareks Disease where the chicken was able to go back to living a normal life?

2. Any idea how I could have contracted Mareks considering I keep my coop and run clean, I've had no new additions, I stay away from others and I have netting overhead of my run but some small wild birds do manage to get in at times?

3. How can I protect my flock that has been exposed to the chicken that is showing signs? (The chicken showing signs is inside away from the flock but was outside for much of the beginning signs as I thought she just pulled something in her leg)

Any advice or input is greatly appreciated!!
Hi there, we seem to have the same problem with our Cream Legbar "Leggy" and she's about the same age as yours.
It started with an air sac infection. I found her lying on the floor when I went to shut up the coops - she was making a grunting noise when she breathed. There had been no previous sign of her being ill.
The vet gave her some Baytril antibiotic and we kept her in the bathroom in a cat basket as the steamy atmosphere was helpful.

The breathing problems cleared up and she started eating and drinking really well but she couldn't stand up - kept keeling over to one side and steadying herself with her wing. Back to the vets, more Baytril and he said the infection seemed to have gone to her inner ear (as there was nothing wrong with her legs), similar to human labyrinthitis.

One week later and still not able to stand on one leg. Back to the vets again to be told she may have some nerve damage. When my husband asked how that happens from an infection the reply was "it just does" She received a steroid injection and we were told that if this didn't cure the problem she would need to be "put to sleep" - I hate this euphemism! She's due to be killed on Thursday as she is no better. She's still eating and drinking really well but has the classic "one leg paralysis" of Marek's disease. It's almost as if she's marching on alternate legs but she gets nowhere. Very sad to see.

I researched Marek's and it seems that she has one of the forms in which the virus attacks the sciatic nerve. Unfortunately there is no cure as it's a type of herpes virus which has most likely been living inside her until now. It weakens the immune system and eventually is fatal. The website suggests that care should be taken to ensure that breeders are reputable to minimise the young chicks being infected but for poor Leggy it's too late. We can't get her to the vets til Thursday so we're just keeping her well fed and comfortable plus showering her bottom daily to keep it clean.

Hope your outcome is more positive than ours and hope this helps a bit

I'm sorry to here about Leggy, I am finding that keeping chickens is very hard to keep them healthy, no matter how hard we try. I'm taking Penny to the vet on Wednesday as he is in surgery all day today but I am sure he will have to put her down.

What are you doing about protecting the rest of your flock now that you suspect Marek's? Or is there nothing that can be done now that they have been exposed to the infected hen?

I do plan on doing the all in/all out bio-security method but I'm not going to cull my whole flock, just wait till there time comes and then take them to the vet.
I'm not sure how transmissible it is - will need to do some more research. She's been in our bath apart from one day when I put her in an "isolation area" so she could see and hear the other hens. I hoped that this might somehow encourage her to stand and walk.

Sorry to hear of your predicament too. We try to rescue animals and it's always very sad when things go wrong. They may be chickens but they do develop personalities very quickly.

All the best
I hope you don't mind me joining in here. Unfortunately one of my six week old chicks, Barbara, was put to sleep on Tuesday with what the vet believed to be Mareks. She was lathargic over the weekend, kept laying down on the grass when she was out with her mum and brother but we thought it was just due to the heat and she has always been a bit weak being the smallest chick. By Tuesday morning she was walking very funny and kept standing on her own feet while walking like she was tripping over them. By the time we got her booked into the vets on Tuesday afternoon she had no control over one of her legs and struggled to get into her bed. When we got her to the vets neither legs were working and she was laying down in the splits with her toes curled. It was so upsetting for us to let her go but she was clearly stressed and in pain. She was our first chick and was our pet- more that 'just a chicken'.

I've done some research on the topic and they recommend cleaning your coup out and ensuring it has plenty of ventilation. However apparently it's spread through some kind of skin cells from bird to bird and some of your flock will be immune and others susceptible to the virus so all you can do is keep an eye on them all. Apparently it can lay dormant for some 60 odd weeks and can travel to your flock from miles away through the wind as its just skin cells that carry it. So there's nothing you can really do about it at all, seems even if you're super careful with your chickens they can still get ill no matter what you do.

Best of luck to you both.
Leggy is still alive , bright eyed and is eating well. I keep showering her rear end so she doesn't get sore. She can stand and stretch up with no problem but when she tries to walk she keels over.
I read on another forum about using hypericum and colloidal silver alternately every 4 hours so, she has a reprieve. Will give it a try.
It appears that Marek's can be months before it is apparent the rest of the flock have been infected. Presume our 4 ex-batts might survive as presumably they will have been vaccinated. In the meantime will keep Leggy away from them but if it's as transmissible as it seems they will already be infected
I took Penny to the vet yesterday and he confirmed he highly suspected Marek's Disease. He did tell me that even though I stay away from other chickens, that she could have been exposed as a chick and it was just dormant until now. We did have to put her down, she was miserable and lost the ability to walk and deficate.

Penny's timeline is what took me by surprise but my vet said that it's a classic case and the progress is right on the mark for Marek's.

Penny was 3.5 years old, about 6 weeks ago, she came out of the coop with a limp on her right leg. I iced her leg down 3 times a day for 3 days and she was 100% again. About a week to week and a half went by and she was limping again. For the next 3 weeks she would sometimes have a slight limp to a pretty severe limp. Some days, she barely had a hitch in her walk. She was still eating, drinking, chasing bugs and was acting completely normal. I would ice her on the bad days but I never saw any improvement when I iced her this time. About a week ago, her limp wasn't too bad but then she chased a grasshopper and was limping pretty bad, so I brought her inside thinking she just kept re-injuring herself and needed time to rest. She was inside in her sick cage for 3 days being iced as much as possible with no changes. On the fourth day she starting acting like she couldn't put weight on the ball of her foot and was starting to walk on her middle toe tip toe but was still active, talking, eating and drinking. The fifth day the right leg was visibly pushed back and she was on the toe nail of the middle toe for balance (which balancing was not working). This day, when I iced her leg down, she started purring. This told me she was in pain and was comforted by me holding her and icing her. The sixth day, she lost both legs. The right leg was pushed all the way back and the left leg was pushed all the way forward. She stopped eating and drinking, I propped her up and put the food and water with some treats within reaching distance, but she couldn't eat. Her vent was also pushed out and I could smell that she had to poop but obviously couldn't. I assumed she lost the ability to deficate as well. Day seven, her breathing started to get heavier. I finally got her to the vet (would have sooner but the vet had surgeries all day on the 6th day and on the 5th day, I was too late to get her to the vet before closing). The vet confirmed Marek's and she was put down.

My vet said that it usually starts with a limp in hens that are older than 12 weeks and then Penny's timeline is on point. For pullets, it can be overnight that they loose both legs. It starts with the legs, then the GI Track and moves forward to other organs including the lungs. Penny's had started on her lungs. Had I not put her down, she would have suffocated and that is a horrible way to go.

Even if I had brought Penny in for just the limp at the very beginning, nothing would have changed. My vet would have told me that he suspects Marek's, informed me about what to look for and bring her in to be put down when her quality of life had diminished.

All my chickens have now been confirmed to be exposed to Marek's but that does not mean they will all die of Marek's. They could go on the rest of there lives without showing any signs of Marek's but they could pass the disease on to other chicken's not in my current flock. So I will not be getting any more chickens until the last one passes. But that could be years from now. I plan on waiting the 1.5 year waiting period after that and then starting over. Currently my flock is happy and healthy, so I hope they stay that way.

I hope this helps anyone that suspects Marek's Disease and lets you know what to look for. As for my Penny, I am happy she is not in pain anymore but am deeply sadden with her loss.
I'm very sorry to hear about Penny. But you're right, at least she is no longer suffering. Symptoms sounds just like my little chick Barbara but hers were only over a couple of days- I think that's because she was smaller and her little legs weren't much to begin with.

I wish you all the best with your remaining flock members. I hope none of the others come down with the disease in either of our flocks.
Last edited:
thank you for this information. We don't know what to do with our Leggy. She had an air sac infection and lameness together. The infection cleared after a few days on antibiotic. The leg problem has slowly improved to the point where she can stand and move around a bit now. She appears to be "stamping" her right foot to try to get her left one to move! There is no sign of the classic "one leg foreward and one back" so far.
She's eating and drinking as normal, pooing as normal.
It's been a month since we found her on the floor. The vet had said he would "euthanise" Leggy if there was no improvement after the steroid treatment - that was last Thursday. There is some slight improvement and we're hoping this will continue. Would be horrified to think she was suffering in any way though. Trying hypericum and colloidal silver now.
just seems weird that she's the only one to suffer. I presume the ex batts have been vaccinated against Marek's as young chicks. We have 4 non batts in with the 4 ex batts plus Leggy who's residing in the bathroom at the moment. We're at the waiting stage with Leggy - any sign of her curling her toes up or them starting to spread outwards and we'll be convinced. Right now they are firmly planted on the ground underneath her.
Whatever the outcome - Marek's is one awful disease.

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom