Marek's. What now???


In the Brooder
11 Years
Apr 25, 2008
I got a bunch of day-olds back in June. They should start laying in three weeks. Over the past couple of months I every now and then have lost a chicken. This week I lost 3. Arrrgh!

After doing much research, it turns out to be Marek's: paralysis of wing (in one chicken who is alive at the moment), swollen crop, lethargic, sudden death or lingering depending, greeny poos, lying on side unable to get up (one leg in front one stretched out behind), toes curled... all sypmtoms of Marek's and I reading it going yeah, that's what my chickens have done.

After investing all that time and $$$, I'd HATE to just get them all butchered. But if I just leave them, they'll all die won't they? Then I'll have no return for all the money invested. So would butchering be the best way of salvaging the most for all that time and money invested?

This is my first time raising chickens, and I'm so frustrated with it all. I keep the coop clean, dry, ventilated, not drafty. Everyone has plenty of food and clean water. I fetch bugs and slugs for them often, and bring them garden veggies. There were originally thirty of them, and they're in an 8x10 coop.
I let them outside on nice days when I can watch them.
So much for vaccines and good care. Guess chickens aren't very hardy critters.

Does anyone have any input or info? Any experience with this matter?

Sorry long it's a long post, but I really would appreciated any help.
Botulism and toxins also have similar symptoms. The only way to know what you're dealing with is to have a necropsy done. You may want to verify if you can consume birds with Marek's (or whatever is ailing them) too.

Put the birds displaying symptoms in intensive care. Put them in a dog crate with the food and water right in front of them. Offer quality food and vitamins. They may recover. There isn't much else you can do. The birds not showing symptoms may never get the symptoms and could live long and happy lives. I have had birds survive this. Survivors may walk with a limp, etc. My Mildred was a Marek's survivor and lived a year and a half in remission until killed by a dog. In the future, only get vaccinated birds. Chicks should be vaccinated at a day old and kept in strict quarantine for at least 10 days. Whether or not you want to go to the trouble of offering special care to the birds or humanely euthanise them is your decision. However, I would not eat a chicken that had displayed symptoms. The meat would not be dangerous but would be low quality because of the possibility of tumors or lesions. Eggs from any survivors are perfectly safe.
Thanks. I'll look up Botulism and toxins. I forgot to mention a rather important detail: they were already supposedly vaccinated against Mareks'. I've heard that the vaccine is easily messed up though.
Whenever there's been a chicken displaying symptoms, it's been quarantined and given food and water. They all have died anyway so far. We'll see...
I know how you feel. I got 30 straight run chicks this spring and lost a lot of them a few months later, exactly as you described. I'd never heard of Marek's before. Long story short, I was advised that vaccination even after exposure can prevent the formation of new tumor so we vaccinated the survivors and we only lost one after that (and she wasn't quite right already). It was easy to do and cheap, too. Out of 16 pullets I only have 6 left, but they are happy and seem perfectly healthy. (Mind you, they may have been just as good without the belated vaccine as they would be the more resistant individuals.) I am about to set a batch of eggs in my new incubator and I will be quarantining and vaccinating the chicks. They say the vaccine is about 90% effective. I wonder if there was a problem with your birds' vaccine...?
They have to vaccinated before they are exposed to other birds or where other birds have been. That means they must be kept inside, not in the coop. All of the equipment and the brooder must be sterilized, etc. Strict quarantine protocol needs to be followed for at least 10 days after the vaccination. That means washing your hands as soon as you come in from taking care of any older birds, or even if you have just been outside. Also, you should not wear the same clothes around the quarantined birds that you wore when you took care of the outside birds. If you let the babies play on the floor it has to be cleaned first if any shoes have walked on it that were outside. It's a pain in the butt, but it's only 10 days and worth the effort. Most Marek's vaccine failures are most likely from quarantine breaches. The vaccine is also very frail. I am not sure of the exact length of time, but I think it is only good for 30 minutes once it is mixed.
You can vaccinate your older birds, it just won't help them if they have already been exposed to the virus.

The vaccine runs about $15.00 per bottle and is good for an hour after mixing.

In England they run a program where they vaccinate birds twice now. There were several years where Marek's was in epidemic proportions and now they rarely see it with the new vaccination schedule.
They were vaccinated before I got them, and this being my first time raising chickens I didn't know quarantine for 10 days. The only other chickens I had were 3 silkies that were about 12 weeks old at the time. They too were in the 8x10 shed, but were kept apart from the chicks with chicken wire.
I've had a couple of other chicken raisers suggest that it could be a riboflavin deficiency and not Marek's. So I got some kelp and brewer's yeast today and am starting them on it. We'll see how things go.

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