Pullet went suddenly blind. Mereks? Advice please


10 Years
Apr 17, 2009
Michigan - in the thumb
1) What type of bird , age and weight. BO hatchery, 26 weeks, weight unknown
2) What is the behavior, exactly. Found in chicken pasture standing, not moving with eyes closed mouth open. After a few days in quarintine she is moving around fine but is blind.
3) How long has the bird been exhibiting symptoms? Did not move for 2 days. Walks around fine now other than bumping into everything. Started a week ago.
4) Are other birds exhibiting the same symptoms? No
5) Is there any bleeding, injury, broken bones or other sign of trauma. No
6) What happened, if anything that you know of, that may have caused the situation. It was very sudden she was running around in the pasture that morning with other pullets. Personal research points to optical form of mereks.
7) What has the bird been eating and drinking, if at all. Yes, she has figured out where the food and water is, force feed water and food for first few days. Blindly stabs at grass and clover. She wants to eat.
8) How does the poop look? Normal? Bloody? Runny? etc. Normal
9) What has been the treatment you have administered so far? Given Oil of Oregano (natural antibiotic, anti virus, anti fungal) For first few days.
10 ) What is your intent as far as treatment? For example, do you want to treat completely yourself, or do you need help in stabilizing the bird til you can get to a vet?
11) If you have a picture of the wound or condition, please post it. It may help. See pics
12) Describe the housing/bedding in use. Was in chicken tractor (see my BYC page), now in dog cage quarintine wtih pine shavings.

My BO was very healthy, no bugs, organic feed, feathers look great and then all of a sudden this hit. From what I have read it sounds like mereks optical type.

I'm very bummed because it seems like my only course of action is to cull. She just started laying and she still trying to run to us when I call to her.

Is this Mereks? Can her sight come back? Is there anything I can do?


Could it be botulism from eating something that's been dead in the pasture for awhile?

Also, its nightshades' fruiting season. Any chance she could have eaten some of those black/bluish belladonna berries? Or henbane (the seeds are blackish and can be picked up as little beetles)?

Only asking because of the neurological symptoms; the open mouth without wheezing may have been paralysis, drooping facial and neck muscles, and the photo clearly shows dilated pupils. I wish she had a pair of shades for those pupils! Exposure to too much light might result in retinal damage if she were a human, I don't know how it works in chickens, though.

She looks like a sweet bird, good luck!
6chickens in St. Charles, you jogged my memory about a few other things.

The first day I though it was maybe impacted crop, there was a hard mass there. I gave her some olive oil and water, massaged her crop and the next day her crop was empty and she had pooped that night.

the chicken pasture is just a fenced in area around the coop about 6000 sq st. Only a few trees, clover, grass weeds. Nothing she could of got in trouble with.

Her pupils are always dilated as the picture shows. She is not in direct sunlight in the garage. I just took the picture in the sun to show it.
This is what ocular marek's looks like in a chicken; the left eye is normal, the right eye is marek's. Has she been scratching her eyes? If not, that rules out eyeworm, here's a pic anyway. Notice the small white in color worm in the front corner of the eye...tearduct, another one above the persons thumbnail. If she ate something poisonous it would affect her organs first and they would start to shut down. It could be a genetic problem. Perhaps a trip to a vet might determine what's going on.

One day, we saw our Silkie hen swallow a toad. She didn't come out of her broodybox for 3 days. Years earlier, we had a cat who loved those toads, they'd excrete a foamy substance which was probably hallucinogenic, the cat would be foaming at the mouth and laying on his side, twitching, then sleep it off for a day or two.
it's unlikely it's mareks. it's not that common - although if you hang out here you'll be convinced that is what's going on - - kind of like hanging out on wedmd and deciding you have cancer due to a bump on your arm. it could be, but it's more likely something else. be careful is my point. also, none of your other chickens are sick. that's a clear sign of something.

have you thought about vitamin deficiencies? what is her diet like? a deficiency in vitamin a can cause inflammation of the eye (http://www.smallstock.info/info/health/poult-nutrit.htm). i couldn't tell if it was inflammed. which brings me to the best, truthful answer to give you: see a vet. there are so many things that can cause blindness. also, it's impossible to field test an animals vision. subjective tests should be done by a professional. i understand you think she's blind/she acts as if she's blind. but that may not be the case - - it may be a guise for something else. which brings me back to: see a vet.

no one here can truthfully help w/o seeing the chicken and assessing the situation.

it could be a number of things (literally, there is a list of things/diseases that include blindness or the appearance of blindness) - - most of which are more likely than mareks.

see a vet.
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She is feed organic feed - open pollinated corn, oats, spelt, roasted soybean, kelp, calcium, poultry mineral mix, molassas. Access to 6000 sq feet of pasture with clover, weeds, grass, white pines, dog woods, 2 pin oaks, mulbery and a black walnut. All of the trees are under 7 feet tall. No walnuts yet.

Your rght about if she is really blind or something else. I figure she is blind because I can put my hand in front of her as she walk and she will pump in to it. When she is stabbing at the ground for clover I can put my hand under her and she will bite my hand. I can put my finger right next to her eye and she wont move until a touch her feather around her eye.

I'll try to find a vet, maybe I will get lucky.
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