My brother an I recently acquired (about two weeks ago) a pair of Rhode Island birds. One cockerel, and a pullet. They weren't cheap.
Yesterday morning the rooster started acting "drunken." He had trouble walking, he acted dizzy, and he lurched around with his wings out.
Today he's even worse. He CAN'T walk now. He's unable to stand, and seems weak... I guess. He's still eating and drinking fine, however. And his eyes and face looks clean and healthy!
At first I thought it was just some explainable thing...
Then I thought it was Mareks.
But he's not limping on one leg, his eyes aren't changing color, he doesn't have watery poop, and he doesn't seem paralyzed. He can still move his wings and legs, but he just can't support his weight.
Is he undernourished, or does he have Mareks? And if he does have Mareks, what should I do? Should I just kill him and try to disinfect everything? Should I see if he can survive and just hope for the best?
Of course, he's isolated now. But if this is Mareks, it's probably too late anyway.
If it is Marek's, the entire flock has been exposed. The disease is spread by dander on the feathers, my flick ended up with it from either wild birds or a gifted rooster who had the same symptoms you described.
You can see if he recovers, as some will regain their feet and remain carriers, or you can cull him and send him for testing. Either way, imho, there's is no point in disinfecting anything and you now either breed for resistance or immunity. If for immunity, you cull hard. Any bird with symptoms is put down. If for resistance, like me, you breed for survivability and keep carriers.
You're welcome. I had a lot of advice given to me when my flock ended up with issues, some great people from another place really told me it's a matter of beliefes, cull hard or let the weak weed themselves out.
I have a rule: If they are able to eat and drink by themselves, I give them the chance until they just can't anymore. The only 2 I have had continue to eat and drink are still in my flock today and no longer show symptoms. The ones who stopped eating and drink or weren't able to do so without assistance were put down and fed to the wild barn cats (and subsequently dogs, if the cats move the carcass).
It helps me come to terms with their death, as it makes me feel like their life wasn't a waste. But then again, I'm a bit of a carebear, circle of life type person.
Another thing I read (and found it to be somewhat true myself, but dont know to what extent), is you can house turkeys with chickens to promote the build up of resistance as well is help weed out those who have little tolerance to Marek's.
The Marek's virus is a strain of herpes, and turkeys carry a similar, non-lethal herpes-type virus that cannot be transmuted out of species. This virus lays dormant in turkeys, and when chickens are exposed, it stimulates an immune response much like a parvo vaccine stimulates resistance to parvo in pups and young dogs. The weak will come have a marek's flare up or come down with other symptoms when their immune system suppresses, the strong may show some minor initial symptoms (a limp, star gazing) or none at all, and quickly thrive.
I kept turkeys for about 6 months and will be getting them again this year (next week with any luck). I had a couple birds head south quickly but the rest did wonderfully, and some that were showing symptoms stopped.
This is the way I understand things, and the way I deal with things. I haven't been posting here very long, but there are a few who don't like me already, as I'm unconventional. You must do what is right for you. If you choose, you can treat with anti-biotics to help counter any secondary infection, however it is a virus, and there is no known cure. I do not use anti-biotics at all in my flock. I try to keep them as natural as possible (save that darn commercial feed), and will not treat with things that cause withdrawl time in meat and eggs, and I've researched herbs and natural cures for several years; contrary to popular beliefe, it is generally effective on many species the same way it is on humans and I am not afraid to take the risks in my flock to find out what works. I've also researched many papers (most coming out of Africa) that talk about relatively untouched tribes who dabble in agriculture, such as raising livestock. Many of the things I've tried from those papers, are a regular regiment around here if anyone seems down in the dumps.
There is a vaccine for Marek's, however the results of getting chicks that are vaccinated, or vaccinating your own is very split down the middle.
You have a good policy of letting them live until they can't feed themselves anymore. But I don't know if it's a policy I could follow. I get pretty attached to my animals, even chickens, so I tend to try to keep them alive for as long as humanly possible.
I know that's not a great policy to follow when time and money is scarce, especially if you have a big flock, but that's just me.
And getting turkeys is a great idea. I think I'll do that.
The rooster isn't looking any better. In fact, his appetite is down, and he's making no signs of recovery.
Chloe so sorry about the loss of your chickens. I am also very attached to my pets and now these 12 new little chickie babes had me at hello.
Sweetened thanks for the info on Marek's I am a new chicken keeper so this is very frightening to me. I have gone through 8 rolls of paper towels in 5 days keeping the floor of their brooder just as clean as possible. I did not get them vacinated for anything as I have read with a small flock it's not really necessary considering the risks. Chickens have not been kept on the property (3 acres) and the entire subdivision used to be a deer hunting lease before it was developed. Their feed is not medicated should I switch them? Is there anything else I can do to protect them from Marek's? Thanks in advance!
We can see a thousand miracles around us every day. What is more supernatural than an egg yolk turning into a chicken? - S. Parkes Cadman