Necropsy prelim. results

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by JusticeFamilyFarm, Aug 4, 2011.

  1. JusticeFamilyFarm

    JusticeFamilyFarm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We finally had to put Pixie down. She was just getting worse and seemed to "spastically" peck at the food only when I held it right in front of her, and wouldn't take water much if I held it in front of her. Poor girl. She was a beautiful 12 week old BR and the one with the most personality in my flock. I had 14 chicks, and my daughters and I named them all, but there were only a few we could actually call by name- the others were hard to tell apart or not as friendly. Pixie was the first one who everyone in my family could call by name because we all knew her. Well- to move on- my husband culled her for me and we packed her up in a cooler and shipped her off to a lab about 3 hours away from us. They called the next morning (well, almost noon) to let me know they received her and were inputting our info into the system. To my surprise I already had a preliminary report in my e-mail inbox tonight when I got home. I expected it to take longer. Now for the bad news- the prelim findings are Marek's Disease. It says that the histology has been sent out to confirm, but the nerves on her right side were enlarged (her right leg and wing were mostly paralyzed). So, once I receive the confirmation in the final report I'll have some decisions to make for my flock of, now, 13. One is a confirmed roo who I was not planning to keep, but don't have much choice anymore, and the rest are hopefully pullets. The good news is I believe from what I've read, the eggs are still safe to eat with a Marek's carrying flock, correct? So I can keep the birds I have for eggs and just have a closed flock. I was planning on adding a few, but I guess I won't be able to do that...? Also, even if I keep them and don't add more and don't get rid of them- once they all died from old age or whatever, the Marek's will still be in my soil for years, right? So I wouldn't be able to have a new, healthy flock for a LONG time. Ugh. This is just awful. My other 13 birds seem resistant to the actual disease, as none of them got sick from it(at this point anyway). But I have also heard that it can hit them when they get older or if they get sick from something else and their immune system is weakened. What have you all done in this situation, or what would you do? Is there a way to clear your land from the disease once your carrier chickens are gone? I'll update when I get the final report.
     
  2. seminolewind

    seminolewind Flock Mistress Premium Member

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    Hi, I'm sorry about the report, but I'm glad you now know. Yes, the eggs are safe to eat. The chickens that you have that are okay are most likely resistant. You may lose one or two, but there is nothing you can do about it. I heard it helps to disinfect everything periodically, and change shavings frequently.

    You can still add to your flock. But they must be 1 day old vaccinated and quarantined chicks, that you hatch or that you buy vaccinated at a day old. And don't think of your flock as not healthy. They are. And my first batch of chickens are now 4 years old and lived thru this. Your own eggs from your own chickens may hatch resistant chicks. My silkies did.

    I don't think you can remove it from your land, but the millions of other chicken owners can't either. You will just be doing things a bit differently by adding with vaccinated quarantined chicks. If you don't have an incubator, buy one now, and discover the joy of hatching. I have some in the bator right now, and vaccine in the fridge.

    Can you track how the virus got to your chickens?
     
  3. PtldChick

    PtldChick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm very sorry to hear this; I had a similar fear last month and found out from the necropsy that it wasn't Marek's. But I had gone through the thought processes of what to do with the developing roos (that were supposed to be pullets) that I can't keep, etc.

    I think if you don't mind keeping a closed flock, and only adding vaccinated chicks, or hatching your own, you can otherwise do things pretty normally. The one thing you can't do is rehome any birds, so if you get unwanted roos, they'll have to go to freezer camp.

    I learned about Vikran-S when researching how to disinfect to protect the rest of my flock had it been Marek's, and it is supposed to kill all sorts of viruses, bacteria and fungi, even resistant strains. So if you wait until this group of chickens is gone, you could try cleaning and then disinfecting everything with this - it even works on porous surfances like wood. I figured I would mix it up in a garden sprayer and spray everything down after cleaning. And hydrated lime is good for killing things on the ground, too.

    It's not the end of the world; lots of people work with this type of situation. I agree it stinks, [​IMG] but if it meant the end of chicken keeping, there'd be even more scare around Marek's.

    Good luck with whatever you decide to do. [​IMG]
     
  4. cocosandy

    cocosandy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I agree with what seminole wind says. What Ive heard from the vets and extension here is that mareks is everywhere. It cant be traced or avoided. The only recourse is to get vaccinated chicks and if you hatch to keep vaccine on hand. Even so, one or two birds out of each 100 may get it, even vaccinated.
    Vaccinated day olds shed live virus for a week or so, so its best to keep the brooder situation away from your flock but Ive had not problems with not doing perfect biosecurity between the chicks and flock....I wash hands carefully and I try not to go from th ebabies straight outside, waiting till after Ive closed the flock for the night to clean and such...
    mareks is spread from feather dander, and its nearly impossible to eradicate it. its one of those things like staph and MG that is now considered to be everywhere, so besides good practices in general, dont make yourself crazy about it.
    The vaccine breaks down pretty quickly after mixing so even ifyou vaccinate yourself on day one, you still may see a little mareks...and there are some pretty strong strains.
    If you know that its mareks, its best to isolate the chicken and when you think its right, put it down. but know that the dander coming off of that bird is infected with mareks.
    there isnt danger to you or the eggs, just any unvaccinated chickens and also any other farms or yards that you visit...it can also be on the tires of your car when you drive to a friend's house....thats why its everywhere. I believe that wild turkeys carry it (thats what they make the vaccine out of: turkey mareks) and also wild birds. so you can clean and clean and then some wild bird will drop dander and there you go....
    the signs are limping or sometimes walking like a soldier where one leg juts out in an odd gait. That develops into wing weakness on one side usually and a worse ans worse gait. They usually eat and drink alot if you set them up in a box, and eventually end up with no control of their body with just their head working....and still able to eat...
    Ive had this happen at at every stage of life, and now its usually just an odd, weaker bird that is home hatched under a broody mom (but I run turkeys with my flock) and so depending on natural resistance.
    Ive had maybe 2 cases in the past year from broody babies, and I hatch alot, free range, and keep alot of oddball weaker breeds like showgirls and silkies, along with some tiny oe bantam mixes.
    Try not to worry too much about this...we all lose some birds and its hard, especially when its a favorite one.
    Just buy vaccinated birds no matter what and eventually your flock will change over to all immune. once you have vaccinated birds then they wont get mareks from outside influences and you can bring in whatever...you just take a chance for the life of any unvaccinated bird.
    so I will take in a hen from someone who needs to rehome with the understanding that if its not vaccinated, it may get mareks on my land...but Ive realized that it may get mareks anywhere.
    Hatcheries sometimes tell people not to vaccinate chicks if they are for small backyard flocks in the erroneous belief that they are less likely to come in contact with mareks; this is incorrect. all birds should be vaccinated for this. Ive found this to be a weakness in hatchery protocol...and when you order vaccinated babies they rarely explain isolation or why to isolate...or how...
    its a problem and I try to talk to them whenever I can and tell them that they should suggest this.
    Vaccines are for some,not considered "organic"...but I cant fathom why not.

    Good luck...this too shall pass...I hope that you dont see anymore, but at least having seen it, you know what it is.
    Mareks is 99.9% fatal, so trying to treat it, besides humane treatment of the animal with it, is futile...believe me, Ive tried...;-)
     
  5. JusticeFamilyFarm

    JusticeFamilyFarm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 27, 2011
    Southern California
    Thank you for your replies. It means a lot to talk about it with others who understand and know what this is and how to move on. My family and friends think I'm crazy for even sending her in for the necropsy, but they just don't get it. My dad and husband finally listened to me explain the whole thing and what Marek's is and my dad agreed that the necropsy was the right thing to do. My husband still thinks I'm crazy, but knows better than to stand in my way when I'm set on doing something, so he's been supportive.
    Karen- I don't know for sure how the virus got here. It is possible that the previous owner's chickens had it or carried it. We know that there had been chickens here before we bought the house, but unfortunately since the home was bank owned by the time we bought it, we never spoke to the previous owners. Also the house behind us has chickens and I don't know them very well or know much about their chickens- so that is also a possibility, I suppose. I don't believe any of my chicks were vaccinated, as I got them all from feed stores as day olds... but my 2 BRs (Pixie being one of these two) were 3 weeks old when I got them. I was at a feed store looking at the day olds, and they had about 10 or so BRs that were about 3 weeks. I wanted some BRs, so I picked up two with along the 3, day-olds I picked out that day. They have been with all my other chicks since that day- the 3 day olds I bought the same day as well as the ones I had bought as day olds about a week prior. Then, even when Pixie was sick and I separated her, I kept the roo with her because he was also in my "chicken hospital"- he was pecked bloody by the other girls (a whole different issue [​IMG] ). So, he's been with her the entire time, and the others were with her until her first symptom appeared.
    So- the suggestion is to vaccinate all of my birds now- even though they have been exposed to her (or with her)? Then vaccinate any I hatch or buy only vaccinated chicks. Can I buy day olds that are not vaccinated and vaccinate them? I don't really want to pay the large shipping costs to order chicks, but the feed stores near here don't sell vaccinated chicks, that I know of- I'll ask around, though. Would I be able to hatch under a broody? I don't plan on keeping the roo with my girls (since they can't seem to get along) but I was planning on buying some fertilized eggs if/when one of mine goes broody maybe next year or so. Is that still a possibility and then vaccinate the chicks when they hatch? Oh- but then they have to be kept separate until they build immunity, right? So I couldn't let the momma raise them? Maybe I could let the roo in with the girls to get some of my own, possibly resistant eggs from my flock, then hatch those under a broody? Is that possible?
    I'm sorry I'm rambling on- my head is just spinning at this point. Thank you all for sharing your knowledge. [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  6. ReikiStar

    ReikiStar Chillin' With My Peeps

    Two vets have told us that "age developed immunity" is the best way to go. They said whether we vaccinate or get vaccinated chicks didn't really matter because vaccinated birds can still catch it. The best way is to:

    1) Minimize stress in your birds. (Easier said than done sometimes) But they said the first six months are the most stressful on chickens since they grow quickly, go through many many physically and emotional changes. Even changing their feed from starter, to grower to layer can be considered a "stress". Basically, any change you introduce to them should be done gradually and slowly.

    2) Their recommendation is to keep younger birds away from older birds until they are 5 to 6 months of age. Supposedly, if they make it to that age they SHOULD have age developed immunity. But we've all seen older birds come down with it too. I asked about that and was told it's one of two things: It never had full immunity and it almost leads to the second reason, it was not a very strong individual to begin with who encountered an extremely stressful situation which lowered it's immune system and couldn't fight off the virus. Basically, you're almost going with a "breeding for resistance" approach when you go for age developed immunity. The weaker birds will get sick and the stronger ones won't.

    Both vets (one private avian vet and the other a state vet) both said the fact that one has had Mareks on their property is actually a good thing. People will raise turkeys with chicks to bolster the chick's immunity...well how to you gain immunity....you come in contact with the germ. So if there is any upside to this horrible disease or having gone through it with your birds, it's that the ones that make it are ahead of the game. I asked about "shedding" and they said a bird would have to have gotten the disease, shown symptoms and recovered. Has anyone had one of those birds? I know of someone who has a well known blog who has a surviving Mareks bird. To date, not one of her other hens has come down with Mareks.

    The choice to vaccinate is always there. I just don't think we should look at it as a cure-all protection, but rather another tool in the possible defense of this virus.
     
  7. JusticeFamilyFarm

    JusticeFamilyFarm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Southern California
    Thank you for the helpful information. So, based on what you said it seems like hatching my own eggs would be a good thing, since that is sort of the "breeding for resistance" approach... but what do you think of letting a broody hatch the eggs? Since I don't have any birds who had symptoms of Marek's and recovered, what you're saying is that it is possible that none of my birds shed the virus? I thought that if they were exposed, they were carriers for life- but that is just what I had heard- not necessarily a fact. [​IMG] But, even if I did let a broody hatch the eggs, I couldn't leave the babies with her if I went on your recommendation to keep the chicks from the adults until 5-6 months of age. I'd have to have separate living space, not attached to my current chicken's living space to hold any newer chicks until they are that age. Hmmm. Letting this all sink in... [​IMG]
     
  8. seminolewind

    seminolewind Flock Mistress Premium Member

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    Alot of questions, I'll try to answer:
    You were right in getting a necropsy-it's a responsibility to the rest of the chickens.
    It's kindof odd that the day olds and the other day olds are fine and Pixie had Marek's. I don't think Pixie got it from your chicks, day old chicks
    from a hatchery have very little time to get it. The 3 week olds could have been from a local backyard flock that had it. And others in your
    flock may get it, some of mine took 8 months from exposure. I don't think there's any point in vaccinating already exposed birds because
    the vaccine "exposes" them safely and the bird starts to build immunity. The disease already exposed them, but with the unsafe illness.
    Vaccinate any chicks (1-3 day olds) or hatches that come in so they don't die from your already exposed flock. Any exposed chicken may or may not die from Marek's, but they will still shed the virus. (That's what happened to me). My silkies (one was first death 2 years ago) went on to hatch their own eggs, and all the chicks are 1-2 years old now, and fine. But purchased eggs were brooded by the silkies and 7/10 have already died, which tells me that if they hatch their own they have passed on immunity so far. So, mama can probably hatch her own and the chicks may be fine . For bought eggs, girl, get yourself an incubator! Then vaccinate. If you buy day olds at the feed store, you can run the risk of those chicks being exposed before you vaccinate them. It's probably a small risk, but it's there.




    Quote:
     
  9. ReikiStar

    ReikiStar Chillin' With My Peeps

    I guess you're going to get conflicting advice because I was told, if a bird was exposed but didn't come down with the symptoms...means they have immunity and will not shed the virus (that's what we want!). But if a bird did get sick but survived (it does happen) THEN they will be carriers and continue to shed the virus.

    The vaccine itself carries these two caveats:

    1) Once a chick is vaccinated it CANNOT be allowed to come in contact with the virus for 10 days after having received the shot. If it does, the vaccine won't take affect. Now if you've had Mareks on your property...how will you know your biosecurity is tight enough that the chicks don't get ANY exposure to it? What about it being "everywhere"? [​IMG]

    2) A vaccinated chick CAN infect a non-vaccinated chick but the odds are the same as the vaccinated chick catching Mareks from the vaccine itself. Luckily, this is relatively small percentage. I asked because I was buying both (Vaccinated and unvaccinated chicks) together at the same time and wanted to know after having lost a bird to Mareks.

    So I'm wondering if the OP's Pixie was exposed to the virus through newly vaccinated chicks?

    They've found that chicks DO get a small amount of immunity (not total) through the mother. But I never asked the question about raising chicks with a broody who's developed immunity to the virus, that's a good question. [​IMG] (I hate this virus).
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2011
  10. seminolewind

    seminolewind Flock Mistress Premium Member

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    Sep 6, 2007
    spring hill, florida
    Here's something from Florida State University

    "Marek's disease
    Marek's disease vaccine is usually administered to chickens at the hatchery on the day of hatch. It is given subcutaneously (under the skin) at the back of the neck. It is best to order chicks already vaccinated at the hatchery.

    It has been demonstrated that the vaccine only prevents the appearance of Marek's disease tumors and paralysis. It does not prevent the birds from becoming infected with and shedding the Marek's virus. "


    Also, exposed birds that do not develop symptoms (have some immunity) will still carry and shed the virus. (That's how my chicks hatched from bought eggs died).
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2011

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