To Incubate or Order. . .that is the Question

2150MormonRd

In the Brooder
Nov 9, 2020
11
25
44
I'm a 10 mo. backyard chicken mom. Nine girls. Six at 10mo, 3 at 6mo. In November, I lost my favorite Cream Legbar at 20 weeks to visceral Marek's (confirmed by necropsy). All of my flock came from local breeders so they were unvaccinated. The State Vet and I chatted at length when Iris was euthanized because I really want more chickens and everything I was reading was a doomsday report. She told me that at about a year old if I hadn't lost anyone else (and they are all healthy as horses) then it should be ok to add more.
I really want the experience of incubating and hatching. Since I don't have a roo, I thought to purchase fertile eggs. That's when I remembered her suggestions that further chickens should be vaccinated ones. What I have been reading though it says its so prevalent and so hard to get rid of that it doesn't matter. They could all drop dead in a year or never.
I have no way to abandon a 1K+ coop and run and build elsewhere on my neighborhood lot. And culling my girls is not an option.

So....hatch babies and take chances? (I'd be keeping them indoors till 4 to 5 weeks old) or order vaccinated chicks and give up on the incubation experience?

To complicate matters...I'm in love with Heritage and rare breeds...and Icelandics.

Thoughts?
 

Folly's place

Enabler
9 Years
Sep 13, 2011
22,423
35,856
1,096
southern Michigan
I'm sorry that you are having to deal with this, and glad that you have a diagnosis.
If you decide to incubate purchased eggs, you still can have Mycoplasma introduced through those eggs if the breeder's flock is infected. It's not a zero risk for that disease!
For doing your own vaccinations against Marek's disease, your incubator and brooder will need to be totally isolated from exposure to any dust, dander, or feathers on your property, until about two weeks after the hatchlings are vaccinated. Possible but difficult, it depends on how careful you will be. total isolation is tough in a home environment! Also using brooders, feeders, etc that are bleached or new,\.
Easier would be to buy vaccinated chicks from a good hatchery, and brood them elsewhere for the two weeks it takes for the vaccine to work. Also a much lower risk of introducing MG, for example.
Every flock is NOT infected with Marek's disease!
I hope you are practicing good biosecurity, as far as confining your infected flock, your boots, shoes, etc, on your property, and not taking this disease elsewhere.
Mary
 

Cinnamon Roll

Songster
Premium Feather Member
Aug 14, 2020
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Cheyenne, WY
I plan to hatch and vaccinate some new chicks this spring/summer. I think the vaccine is something like $30 and you have to use the vaccine within a short time frame.

Since I plan to let broody hens do the incubating, I will probably have to order multiple bottles.
 

Folly's place

Enabler
9 Years
Sep 13, 2011
22,423
35,856
1,096
southern Michigan
The Marek's vaccine costs more than that, and comes in 1,000 dose bottles. It can be split into four separate amounts, so only 250 doses are mixed and used at once. Once reconstituted, it needs to be used within one hour, so it can't be stored.
Broody raised chicks are already exposed to their environment, so the vaccine will only matter to them if Marek's disease isn't already present in the flock.
Here, our broody raised chicks aren't vaccinated, and our hatchery chicks are, and then are raised away from the coop for two weeks. So far, we've been careful and lucky, and no Marek's disease here.
Mary
 
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BaaKaaawk

Coopster
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Apr 4, 2011
800
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Lexington, KY
I've hatched a lot of chicks with no vaccinations which ended up happy healthy chickens. I've also raised a ton of chicks which came pre-vaccinated. I've even raised them all together. Really at the end of the day, you have to do what you want to do based on your risk profile. If you want to hatch eggs and are ok with the risk of doing so (AKA you may lose some in incubation, you may lose some at hatching, you may lose some after to disease) then by all means do it. Your alternative is a heck of a lot easier, that is buying pre-vaccinated chicks that have already made it past a lot of the deadly hurdles, but it is also not you hatching eggs. So really, it comes down to what you want out of it.
 

Allthefloofs

Songster
Sep 16, 2020
581
1,412
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Scottsdale, AZ
We hatched this past year, and vaccinated. I bought the vaccine from Valley vet, it was roughly 35 dollars for 1000 doses, there was extra shipping involved because it needed to be shipped cold and fast. I mainly did it because we had a hen die of a liver hemorrhage but she had some signs of Mareck's in her necropsy report so I was scared of losing our babies early to Mareck's. I ramped up the biosecurity around the babies and vaccinated them asap. It's tough because I think you have a matter of hours or an hour to vaccinate them after mixing the vaccine so everyone was left in the incubator until vaccination. I made it a rule that once the kids held one of the big girls they had to change clothes in another building (we have two here) before visiting the babies, as well as washing hands, etc. I kept those rules for 4 weeks, which was hard, but they are 10 weeks old and we haven't seen any signs. I might add that all of our caution may have been way overboard. We did it as an abundance of caution kind of thing. I will say that it was a last resort so I could get Tolbunt Polish, I can't order those sexed from a hatchery and at $39-$59 per chick it was less expensive to hatch the 7 eggs for $49 and hope for some girls. If I could have ordered them vaccinated and sexed from a hatchery I would have. Whatever road you take, good luck. I know when I saw that our poor hen had signs of Mareck's my heart sunk. I can only imagine how bad it felt to know that your favorite CCL died of it. My CCL is my favorite too, my heart goes out to you. Here's the link to the vaccine for info purposes: https://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.html?pgguid=0A374926-E913-44E0-9EB3-4DE559B5EFAA
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
26,729
18,533
857
Southeast Louisiana
My thoughts? Marek's is in your flock. Nothing wishy washy about that, it has been confirmed. Once it is in your flock, it is always there. Your vet is an expert. When she said all future chicks should be vaccinated that was because Marek's is confirmed in your flock. Marek's spreads on the wind. You may have a predominant wind direction but there will be times wind could blow in any direction. On a neighborhood lot you cannot build new facilities and keep them safe, even if you could avoid carrying it there yourself on your clothes.

So, what are your options. You can buy them already vaccinated and brood them in total isolation for a few weeks. One advantage of this is that you might be able to buy a specific number of sexed chicks. If you hatch them you have no idea how many will hatch or what sex they will be.

You can hatch with an incubator, vaccinate them yourself and brood them in total isolation for a few weeks. You cannot hatch with a broody hen as the chicks will immediately be exposed.

You can hatch them either with a broody hen or in an incubator and not vaccinate them. While all of them are carriers once they are exposed to Marek's, not all of them exhibit the symptoms. You see that with your current flock. Some that you hatch will almost certainly come down with the symptoms, you'll have to deal with them. But it is pretty likely that some will not. Some people can deal with this, some can't. I do not consider this easy.

Another thought, if you hatch them yourself some will be boys. What will you do with them? If I had Marek's in my flock my ethics would not let me sell or give them away. Are you going to eat them or will you commit to housing and feeding them until they die?
 

LadiesAndJane

Life is good...
Premium Feather Member
May 5, 2020
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Hawaii
I would pick chicks over eggs any day. I LOVE incubating and hatching eggs, but if you want to be sure you actually get chicks, then ordering them is best. Depending on the breeds you want, you can get chicks already vaccinated for Mareks. Most hatcheries offer Mareks. Many smaller breeders do as well. If you order hatching eggs and they have to be shipped to you, there is no guarantee they will hatch. Depends on too many variables. Good luck with your decision. 😊
 

2150MormonRd

In the Brooder
Nov 9, 2020
11
25
44
I hope you are practicing good biosecurity, as far as confining your infected flock, your boots, shoes, etc, on your property, and not taking this disease elsewhere.
Mary

I have been in isolation since March and literally do not go anywhere except to pick up groceries. And my chicken boots stay on the back porch. No one in my neighborhood has chickens and mine are confined.
 

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