Moving forward after loss of birds - possibly Mareks

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by MoreCowdog, Apr 11, 2016.

  1. MoreCowdog

    MoreCowdog Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 12, 2015
    Seattle, WA
    Hi everyone,

    Over the last few weeks my 3 silkies have been dropping off due to an illness that bears a strong resemblance to Mareks. These birds were my first chickens, and in the few months that I had them, I feel I provided adequate shelter, food, clean water, regular vitamin supplements, and medication and/or vet visits when needed.

    After tonight, I will likely be down to one bird, as my rooster probably won't be around tomorrow due to his poor condition, and the one remaining bird is still eating and drinking, but she is somewhat limited in her ability to move about due to her inability to use her legs very well.

    Having said all that, moving forward, what do you all recommend as far as caring for the remaining bird, and the possibility of introducing new birds into my coop? I have read that silkies are perhaps more inclined to Mareks than some other breeds. I obtained the birds through a local Craigslist ad. I would be certain they weren't vaccinated. I understand the virus can live for quite a long time in the environment, how can I acquire new birds and have some assurance that have minimized the chances they will get sick too?

    Are silkies not a "beginner's chicken?" Some folks I know who keep birds have suggested a hardier bantam breed might be the way to go moving forward. I am pretty partial to silkies, I love their appearance and personalities. I keep my birds in a "garden ark" coop in a suburban backyard environment. I figured 3 birds is about the size of flock I can keep given my current setup.

    Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!
  2. 0wen

    0wen Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 25, 2016
    Southwest Virginia
    You can call the state veterinarian (extension office can possibly assist as well) to get a necropsy done on your birds to confirm Marek's.

    As far as rebuilding...

    Primary options are getting Marek's vaccinated birds or new unvaccinated birds and cycle through them looking for marek's resistant birds. Marek's is tough to get rid of, but you can start by giving your coop a thorough cleaning and disinfecting. Most likely, if your "one remaining bird" is all ready showing symptoms (mobility, paralysis) then her days are probably numbered and you may want to wait until that's resolved. You could consider culling your birds instead of waiting it out to cut down on the number of days your birds could be shedding the virus. Ventilation in your coop is an ally in the fight vs Marek's. No idea what your coop design is, but its thought Marek's is spread via birds inhaling infected dander - good ventilation can help combat this.

    I've heard the same thing about Silkies but no idea if it's true or not. I know of someone who lost an entire flock to Marek's a few years back however, and the virus came onto his property by an infected silkie...
  3. MoreCowdog

    MoreCowdog Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 12, 2015
    Seattle, WA
    Thanks for your reply 0wen. It sounds like it's best to wait and see what happens with Lucy (last surviving bird) before moving forward with new chickens. As you mentioned, I'll give the coop a thorough cleaning. The design of the garden ark allows for pretty good ventilation. If you're not familiar, it's something you build from plans. I have attached a photo below. The run and roost box are pretty well ventilated as you can see.

  4. Folly's place

    Folly's place True BYC Addict

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    So sorry, this is a rotten way to start with chickens. Marek's disease is on the list of possibilities here, but an actual diagnosis would be your best bet. Then you can have a plan to move foreward. Chill, don't freeze, the bodies, and get answers from the post mortem. Mary
  5. aldarita

    aldarita Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 2, 2012
    Brenham TX
    I agree with Mary, the symptoms of Marks are so very diverse that other illnesses can get masked as Mareks, it is a good idea to get a diagnosis to make sure and take the proper precautions. I'm sorry you have to go thru this with your first flock. Hopefully you will have better luck with your next one. Bio security is so important and it is worth to make the best effort although it is tough to deal with viruses.
  6. MoreCowdog

    MoreCowdog Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 12, 2015
    Seattle, WA
    Thanks so much for your replies and advice. Here's a little more info on what's been happening:

    Lucy has been to the vet a couple times. When I first took her in she was limping with no obvious injury. After the first visit she was diagnosed with a respiratory infection and given antibiotics. Her breathing improved but her motor skills and function got worse. She really couldn't use her lags at all. At the follow up visit, the vet indicated she though the bird had some non-specific "neurological issue" and wouldn't rule out Mareks.

    A few days after this, Cluck Norris (RIP) developed a similar limp and loss of motor function in his legs. He stopped eating and drinking and then died Tuesday morning.

    One thing the vet didn't pick up on with the lice/mite infestation that Lucy had. I found that when I brought her in to give her a bath. She was laying in her own poop and it kept getting stuck to her feathers. I treated her the Permethrin and it seemed to get rid of a LOT of bugs on her. I've since followed up with an additional treatment, but she still seems to have the nits/eggs stuck to some of her feathers.

    Over a month later, she seems to have stabilized. She is eating and drinking regularly and with relish. She seems to be able to get around to a limited extent, she's still wobbly, but she's generally doing better.

    Cluck Norris (RIP) got thrown out in the trash so autopsying him isn't really an option any longer. In any case, in part I also have some reservations spending what I will assume is a lot (Lucy was a $7 chicken and I have about $250 in vet bills for her) for limited return. I am a caring owner, but I'm not rich either.

    Thanks again for all your help!

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