New Baby Chick with Swollen eye, Possibly Blind, Maerek's Disease?


8 Years
Mar 2, 2011
Hi I am BRAND new here, and after a disastrous experience last year trying to raise a flock ended up giving away our three surviving hens and unsure if I'd ever do it again. But dang I missed those birds.

We just bought a lot of 26 new Ameraucana chicks, unvaccinated (I now know, mistake #1!).

They were all alive and peeping when we picked them up from the post office yesterday (Mar 1), got them water, food and heat as soon as possible (they came early, I wasn't entirely ready, so this took nearly an hour, but in the meantime they were snuggled together in their box).

One was feeling listless already by then, just wanting to sleep under the heat lamp, and at first I thought it just was exhausted and needed a break from all the commotion, but then I noticed it wasn't really opening it's eyes, and I wasn't sure it could, and it wasn't eating or drinking. Later in the day I noticed another one with one sticky eye, almost bulging the other one was open. I got a washcloth with warm water and tried wiping the eyes, but saw no immediate benefit on this one. I was able to at least gently open the eyes of the other one, so that was good news. I put them both back in the box under the heat lamp and went to bed, not sure what else to do, and not having a warm enough second home to separate them without freezing them.

This morning I can't even figure out which one was the tired bird not opening her eyes from the day before (hooray for full recovery!), but the goopy eyed one still doesn't look good. I have separated her (I hope it's a her, I only ordered one rooster!) and wiped the eye again. As I was wiping it was hard to tell where the eye was even supposed to be, because of the markings on her, but it seems like the bulging gooey eye part is higher and larger than it should be, and it's all grayed over. I can't decide if it's a film over the eye, or just the color of the eye. I read on Welp Hatchery that Maerek's Disease is characterized by a gray eye. Is that what this is?

Here are some photos (SO hard to get a good pic of a chick eyeball that's hardly even open!)

[Okay... can't figure out how to get my images to stick. I'll try again later.]

The chick is walking around, not peeping like it's distressed, but since I hadn't seen it eat or drink (doesn't mean it hasn't done it, I just haven't seen it) I dipped it's beak in the water to see if it would. She drank it right up and went right back for more. After she wandered around for a bit I saw her randomly pecking at the ground so I guided her to the food and she ate hungrily. I'm wondering if she's blind in that eye? If so, what does that mean for her future?

Thanks in advance! Sorry for the super-long post I just wanted to give plenty of details.
Hi, and
I hope you little ones will start to feel at home and begin to thrive for you. Do you have some neosporin or generic form of same w/o pain relief? you can gently put some of that in and around the eye it might help. and as far a Mereks lets hope and pray not.. Did you get any electrolytes to give to the new babies? that helps in the first few days also.. Hopefully someone else will be here soon to help ya more.. just wanted you to know I care an am rooting for you and babies..
You know, only one chick with an eye problem suggests injury to me, possibly, like a pecking injury.

Did you lose the last flock to disease? Did these come from a hatchery?

And welcome, glad to have you here!
I'm so glad to have some help! I will try the electrolytes idea... meaning, Gatorade? Pedialyte? What am I shopping for?

It is possibly an injury. It just looks odd... almost like it was sliced ABOVE the eye and now that's the part exposed rather than the normal slit? I don't know. BUT there's no blood, so I was thinking it must be disease. I have heard of people using Terramycin antibiotic ointment for a variety of chicken eye problems, but I'm having trouble finding a local source. I called my vet and she said it's just the way it goes, it's part of the bargain buying chicks that some just don't make it.
not mareks. Sometimes a chick is born with a defective eye that waters , or the lid is not fully formed, or even a bit of fluff is sticking in it. I would clean and put bacitratin on it. and see if it heals ok. could also be from pecking. Once I had a chick get stuck in egg and as I eased it out a bit of lid (the skin is so thin) came off with the shell. It healed but it took a while and in the meantime it was a bit goopy because it could not blink perfectly.
Oops, I forgot to answer your questions:

Did you lose the last flock to disease? Did these come from a hatchery?

No... at least I don't think so. We bought Ameraucanas last summer for the blue eggs and good temperament and had read that they were cold hardy, but 2 of our 5 hens died over the winter (unless it was by some insidious disease I didn't recognize?). We have a nice henhouse with good ventilation, I don't know if it was something we did or just that they're not as cold-hardy as we'd hoped. We hatched more babies the following spring and I really didn't want them in the house so I tried just partitioning off a section of the hen house when it was warm enough/they were big enough. Apparently my lazy hens were suddenly motivated to really fly and got in there and decimated the chicks. That's our sad story of my ignorance which I am hoping to forestall by spending more time @ BYC!

And yes, I bought these from Meyer Hatchery.​
You could have lost those two hens to so many things. Usually (not always) with a disease there are some symptoms first. It's not terribly unusual to lose them around point of lay to an egg laying problem, or maybe a heart problem, something like that. I lost one of the same breed, a hatchery bird, the same way. You don't say where you live, but death from cold would be pretty unusual, even way up north of me. And if Meyer had Marek's running through their chickens, I can't believe we wouldn't be reading about it here.

I hope the goopy eye turns out to be injury or maybe a foreign body, something relatively minor, and that it resolves and all will be well for you.

Enjoy your BYC experience! So much to learn here!

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