Mareks in my flock? Need your thoughts...

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Frosty, Sep 20, 2011.

  1. Frosty

    Frosty Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,921
    27
    213
    Mar 30, 2008
    ND
    Starting from the very beginning...

    I got my first flock of chickens from a co-worker who was going through a divorce. This was back in 1994 and I didn't have the internet to turn to back then. Everything was fine and I didn't have problems. After that I just got hatchery chicks with the exception of a few bantam Seabrights that another co-worker gave me. Still no internet so I thought that the scaley legs was just how they were until it spread to the rest of my flock. I had a lot of chickens at the time, and the remedies for mites that I read in books wasn't really feasible on a large flock. I ended up depopulating, cleaned out the hen house, and left it empty for the winter. Then I started again and just got hatchery chicks. I never opted for the Mareks vaccine because nobody around me has chickens so I thought I was safe there.

    Fast forward to last winter. We had way more snow than normal, but temps overall weren't as cold as they were the winter before. One night I went out to feed and found two dead chickens. Of course I was alarmed. When I went to move the water fount to fill it, I noticed that the heated base was making a buzzing noise. I thought that maybe the dead chickens got electrocuted, though when I found them they were nowhere near the water. I took it out and checked the circuit, no problems there so I got a new heater. But still for the rest of the winter and into the spring I would lose a chicken here and there. Enough to worry me, but nothing that I could put my finger on. Around May I quit having losses, then in July I decided to worm the flock because they were a little thinner than I liked.

    This spring I had a bunch of chicks that I moved to the outside brooder at a younger age than is normal (for me) because it was warming up outside. The problem is that these chicks didn't grow like my chicks normally do. They are Frizzled Cochin and some mixes from my flock (possible crosses are EE/Cuckoo Marans and Buff Orp crosses) I thought perhaps it was because part of their diet is from foraging. I have since found that the Cochins aren't the best foragers so that could be part of the problem. But I have some Leghorns in with them which I think are supposed to be good foragers? I was thinking perhaps the quality of forage was the problem. They are fenced in an unused part of the garden beside some Cottonwood trees. We planted the trees but have since learned that they are water and nutruient hogs so are a bad choice to have by the garden. So the trees have to be taken out, in the meantime I thought that maybe the weeds are lacking in nutrition. Now I am wondering if Mareks can cause this?

    What makes me now suspect that I have Marek's... I was looking at my year old EE rooster a few days ago and noticed that one pupil is oval. Closer inspection shows a a milky clouding close to the pupil. I looked at my other chickens and saw some year old Brown Leghorns with very small pupils on one side and normal looking on the other. I look at pictures of the split leg chickens and it looks familiar but I can't say if any of mine had that or did I just see pictures before so it looks familiar? Last winter one of my roosters staggered a bit when I went in to feed, then he seemed like he was walking better. A few days later he died. Starting around the winter of 2009-2010 my egg production has been down a bit and has been hit or miss ever since. Quite a few eggs for a day or two then very few. This could actually be normal because the ages of my birds vary from a year or so to probably at least 6 or 7. I am not getting as many white eggs as I would expect considering that I have 15 - 20 Brown Leghorns hatched last year (from MM hatchery). They are smaller than the White Leghorns that I had previously and seem to have the different sized pupils more than my other varieties of chickens. I visited a friend who has chickens, and later took one of my Chantecler hens to her (they grew normally, but were also vaccinated for Marek's I think. They were from John Blehm and from his website it appears that he vaccinates unless you ask not to). 3.5 weeks later one of her chicks that hatched from shipped eggs started limping. He appears better now, but I am sick at the thought that I may have spread this to her flock.

    The only other chickens besides my own and my friends (hers are hatchery stock mixed with chicks from a fellow BYC member and some hatched from my eggs and shipped eggs) that I have been around was in October 2008 when I went to somebody's house to pick up a pair of peafowl, and she had chickens too.

    Looking at the Merck site, they said:
    Marek’s disease is one of the most ubiquitous avian infections; it is identified in chicken flocks worldwide. Every flock, except for those maintained under strict pathogen-free conditions, may be presumed to be infected. Although clinical disease is not always apparent in infected flocks, a subclinical decrease in growth rate and egg production may be economically important.

    So does this sound like Marek's to you? Starting cost for a necropsy here was $75 about 10 years ago, if Marek's is really that common would a necropsy be worth it? (No avian vets around). And what is the best course of action? Depopulate and start over with vaccinated stock? Is it worth it to do that when the new stock will likely be infected anyhow? Do I just plan to have any new chicks vaccinated prior to arrival, vaccinate any that I hatch and just keep some of the old stock here (my BCM, Chantecler, and Ameraucana that I just got this year), cull anything with symptoms and breed for resistance? I start chicks in the house, will I be able to sell any of those chicks that have never been exposed to the flock?

    One interesting note: reading here in BYC it appears that Silkies have very little resistance to Marek's. I have one Silkie Rooster and a Bantam Cochin rooster. Both are 7 or 8 years old and so far are still doing fine though the Silkie rooster is looking pretty old.

    Please give me your thoughts on all of this. I feel sick about it but have not hit panic stage... yet.
     
  2. Frosty

    Frosty Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,921
    27
    213
    Mar 30, 2008
    ND
    As an update, I did some looking around and found that Marek's is on the reportable disease list for my state. I contacted them, and he didn't sound really concerned about the possibility of Marek's but does want to have somebody contact me and possibly test my flock for AI. He doesn't think they have AI but wanted to have them tested for it just to make sure? He said it was because we have a lot of waterfowl in this area. [​IMG] Anyhow, I will get a call tomorrow about it. Probably all I did by calling was put myself on the states radar.

    He said that what a lot of people do is depopulate and start over with vaccinated stock. But since my birds free range, would that mean not having chickens for a year? He said you need sunlight to kill off the virus in the environment, and we haven't had a lot of that this year. I guess now wait and see what happens...
     
  3. nizar

    nizar Out Of The Brooder

    74
    1
    41
    Sep 10, 2011
    let's be sure that you have Marek's , I wish you could attach some pictures in you next message for those chicken that you think they got Marek's, there are many diseases have the same symptoms as Marek's , this year I thought that my chickens got Marek's but it's wasn't, It was just some chicken deficient of vitamins disease.

    Marek's virus need long time to appear, and I heard virus could live outside of the body more than three month, transmitting by the air, that why I think Marek's virus is toughest virus in whole universe, and there is no vaccine to control it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2011
  4. Frosty

    Frosty Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,921
    27
    213
    Mar 30, 2008
    ND
    Quote:The main symptom that I am going on at this point is the eyes. I might get some pictures later today or tomorrow, but right now it's raining, 52 degrees out, winds 24 gusting to 34 mph and nobody available to help hold the chickens. Not exactly tempting to go catch a wet chicken to take pictures of his eyes right now [​IMG] Maybe I'll get lucky and whoever comes to test for AI will take a chicken back with her?

    The state vet asked if I had any of them in to the vet, I told him no, the vets here don't want to see them and keep telling me to see the other vet. He replied that there aren't a lot of avian vets in the US. He asked if I sent any out for necropsy when I had some losses last winter, again, no. They want a 'fresh dead' carcass as in kill one right before sending it in. At that point none of them showed symptoms before they were dead, usually frozen when I found them (when it's -20 it doesn't take long before they freeze). I could have killed one to send in, but if they weren't showing symptoms how do I know if that chicken had anything wrong for them to find? I guess wait and see how all of this plays out now that I talked to them...
     
  5. tiki244

    tiki244 Flock Mistress

    8,792
    35
    308
    Jan 1, 2008
    WestCentralWisconsin
    The eye problem does sound mareks like. The only way you can possibly know is to get a necropsy on one of your chickens. If the eye problem is mareks, one or more of those will die. Or cull one and have a necropsy done on it. [​IMG]

    Vaccinating any new stock you get would help and keeping them away from olde chickens until they are 5 months of age. . Using Oxine in your air and keeping the dust and dander down would help.
     
  6. seminolewind

    seminolewind Flock Mistress Premium Member

    17,687
    507
    461
    Sep 6, 2007
    spring hill, florida
    Marek's is a possibility. Your story sounds alot like mine. A dead chicken every few months for no reason. Sometimes they carry it and it comes out when they're stressed. I would figure hot or cold weather could be stressful.

    Check with your State dept of Agriculture, and look for animal disease labs. Mine here in Florida wanted $30.00-cheap. With most of my demises over the last 3 years, most had no symptoms other than wasting away (thinner and thinner). It was hard to see how skinny sometimes because of the fluffy feathers.
     
  7. Frosty

    Frosty Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,921
    27
    213
    Mar 30, 2008
    ND
    Thank you seminolewind...

    We have one place in the state that does the testing. About 10 years ago I got some poults from a hatchery, when they arrived at the Post Office one was dead and smelled horrible. I had to get it out of there before I could even put the box in my vehicle. Over the next few weeks they were just dying off (not the first turkeys I raised, so I wasn't a newby at raising them). If I recall correctly, their necks were twisted around before they died. I called the lab and they wanted a fresh dead carcass and $75 for basic tests, more if they had to look harder. By that point I was down to three poults so I didn't go for it.

    Right now I am going to hold off sending any in, while I don't have to allow them to test for AI I feel that it wouldn't be a bad idea to make sure that we don't have it here. The problem is that if they test positive the state will probably destroy all of my birds. Even if it's a low pathogenic strain. That possibility has me really nervous. The chickens would be hard enough, but the thought of losing my peafowl... The hardest on the chickens would likely be the BCM, Chantecler, Ameraucana, and Frizzles that I just got this year. But I figure that I might as well wait for those tests to come back first, if they are positive and all have to be destroyed it won't make a difference if it's Marek's. She is coming out on Monday to do the testing and said that if I wanted, I could have them tested every 90 days for free as long as the funding holds out. I have no idea of how long it will take to get the results of that... If AI comes back negative, then I will see about sending one in for necropsy.

    I read through the thread where you talked about the losses that you had, and I would like to offer my condolences. It's a horrible feeling, watching these birds go downhill and wondering if you could have prevented it. In the case of Mareks, it sounds extremely common and I think folks could have it in their flock for quite a while without knowing it. But there sure seems to be a lot of flocks with it this year, and other diseases like Blackhead in turkeys and peafowl...
     
  8. seminolewind

    seminolewind Flock Mistress Premium Member

    17,687
    507
    461
    Sep 6, 2007
    spring hill, florida
    I don't understand how the state could destroy your flock for Marek's. It's not something that they can destroy for.
     
  9. Frosty

    Frosty Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,921
    27
    213
    Mar 30, 2008
    ND
    Quote:It wouldn't be for Marek's, they want to test for AI (Avian Influenza)
     
  10. tiki244

    tiki244 Flock Mistress

    8,792
    35
    308
    Jan 1, 2008
    WestCentralWisconsin
    That is too bad that they have to come out and test your flock. I am sure everything will be fine. But it is scary/nervewracking anyway. Yeah that seems to be the way things work,,,,,,you call and ask for /questions/help and then 'they' put you on the radar for someone to watch. [​IMG] Sorry you have to go through that.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2011

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by