Possible abscess on pullet's neck


Dec 30, 2018
North Florida
Thank you, microchick for taking the time to write the above post. I wish more people could read it before starting their first flock. If more people understood just how devastating it really is, I think the question of whether or not to spend the extra money on vaccinated chicks would become moot.

I did want to mention the alternative that we discussed regarding our small flock. DH has been after me to allow him to harvest a bird that we've raised ever since we started keeping them in 2017. To date, the only time I've given in was our one and only attempt at keeping a rooster after he became seriously aggressive. (We have a young child, so it wasn't negotiable)
Circumstance notwithstanding, I felt so guilty and barely tasted the resulting meal even though that b*stard bloodied me twice.
So when DH floated the idea of harvesting them now while still in good health with good muscle mass, etc... then maybe trying ducks for a few years if we were ready next spring or summer, I did consider it (briefly) but knew it would never sit right with me.
We've talked about raising meaties, and I think I could handle that, as long as I know that is their purpose from day one. But these hens are family pets. One in particular my 3yr old calls his "good chicken." She will allow him to pick her up for gentle hugs then follow him around. The proposal made sense, but I just couldn't agree to it.
So we will stand by them through what may come as we have done with all other pets past and present.
Off topic, but I did want to share a victory... Skeeter, my litte mini goat is nearly fully recovered from the dog attack. There were many times over the week following the incident that I thought I was going to loose him, but we persevered, and he's now back to normal goat life.


2 Dozen Chickens Past Normal!
Premium Feather Member
7 Years
Dec 31, 2014
NE Missouri
That, @Gizabelle is what prompted me to write my article/narrative concerning my experiences with MD.

There are a lot of articles on line concerning the medical science concerning Marek's but very little written by flock keeps who have gone through the trauma of discovering that they are dealing with Marek's in their flock.

Let's face it, a lot of the symptoms birds show are so subtle that you look at the bird and go? Does she have worms? So you worm her and a week later you look at them and go. Maybe I wormed her for the wrong parasites. So you worm them again. A month later Henrietta is losing weight but eating like teenaged football players. So you start looking on line for ideas. You change feeds, you dose them with antibiotics, you strip naked, paint yourself purple and stand on a hill swinging a dead skunk over your head and poor Henrietta is steadily declining no matter what you try. Then one morning you go out to your coop and Henrietta is on her back under the roost bars, feet up, stiff as a board.

The average person thinks, well you have live stock you have dead stock. You give Henrietta a decent burial because you loved that stupid little pea brained hen then discover that you have another hen who has a big lump under her wing. Nothing adds up and equals Marek's disease until somebody here on BYC asks if you have seen a vet or sent in a bird for a necropsy. So the flock owner does that and then they get the bad news. They have Marek's Disease in their flock.

The sad truth is that there was absolutely, positively NOTHING you could have done that would have prevented what happened from happening. Even vaccinated birds can succumb to Marek's as no vaccine is 100%. Plus, let's face it. A lot of people don't want to put vaccines into their chickens or livestock. Going Organic or as chemical free as possible is an admirable thing but it's a hard thing to do successfully. If you have MD on your land, it's danged near impossible.

Gizabelle do not feel guilty for inviting a mean rooster to dinner. I did the same thing this summer. I had two young cockerels that I tried to integrate into the main flock. The second day I went out and found them trying to mate one of my small bantam cross hens....only she was dead. I had no doubt that they had killed her trying to breed her as they had torn every feather off of her back and wings. I felt horrible....for the little hen. I had no guilt when I took the two boys out and introduced them to a one way trip to freezer camp. I make broth out of my butchered birds for kitchen use. Slow cooked for 24 hours the broth is rich and tastes wonderful. Our dogs enjoy the meat mixed with their food and the cats even enjoy a bowl of chopped up 'mean rooster'.

I think you have a good plan going. Meaties, vaccinated, are only around X number of weeks before harvesting. As for Ducks I am going to add something to that. Ever thought about turkeys? Do some google searches on keeping a couple turkeys around to help boost the immunity of your chickens to Marek's disease.

Turkeys carry their own strain of herpes that doesn't kill them nor does it kill chickens. Exposed to it, chickens immune systems go on high alert and produces antibodies that help with immunity to another form of poultry herpes namely MD.

Do some research on it.

I am so glad that your goat survived that attack. You did good! I remember when you posted about that. I keep getting this mental picture of a little 3 year old with a hen following them around and the little one saying, Good Chicken! How cute is that!? I wish you the best of luck with your plans. Consider in a few years writing your own article about how you and your flock survived Marek's Disease.


"One day or Day one"
Premium Feather Member
May 31, 2019
Moore County, NC
Thank you for your kind words, heatherkellyb.

The 3 year mark is based for me on the information that was given to me by the doctor I talked to.

Young birds for the most part experience their first intro to Marek's disease around age 7-9 weeks of age. Even vaccinated birds if they are exposed to the virus will become carriers. The virus just does not go to the stage where it will produce the tumors like the one you saw on @Gizabelle's hens neck or tumors on the internal organs.

In unvaccinated bird, Once exposed either one of two things happens. One, they succumb to the initial infection. Scissor paralysis, neurological or tumor/cancer development, or they recover from the initial infection only to develop secondary effects from the virus. Once again, I'm using Gizabelle's hen with the neck tumor as an example. If she hadn't caught that tumor, it would have kept growing until it metastasized and she would have died a slow and painful death.

This usually happens when the birds are young. If the bird is exposed to the virus, survives the initial infection and survives to the age of at least 3, it's chances of being resistant increases. I was told that the longer the bird survives the greater it's chances of being resistant and you don't want to hatch eggs from that bird until you are certain it is going to survive to an age where it can pass on it's natural immunity to the disease. And IMHO you want your rooster that you use to fertilize the eggs you hatch to be of an age where he is considered to be a resistant survivor.

Bantams that I have hatched from vaccinated parents are now 2-4 years of age. Do I suspect that the vaccinated hens have passed on their resistance to their chicks? Yes I do.

As for culling, it has been established that birds that are experiencing symptoms of the disease shed the virus in their dander at an alarming degree. Normally birds shed the virus in their dander continuously but a symptomatic bird steps up that process. So it is better to cull a bird when it is showing visual signs of the virus. For example weight loss, tumors, respiratory or cardiac symptoms, etc. Plus it is the humane thing to do so the bird does not suffer.

I hope I have answered your questions. Is it hard to do? Yes. But the cold reality concerning MD is that once you have it you always have it and are having to deal with the very real reality of either having birds die or have them develop symptoms that make it necessary to cull them to keep other birds safe and to keep the affected bird from suffering.
Wow! Thank you so much for your reply. You've been so incredibly informative. MD is so scary to think about but I feel like it's necessary, especially at the rate it's spreading. Thanks again for all of this information 💗

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