Mareks Disease?

Discussion in 'Emergencies, Illness, Meds & Cures' started by Chloe88, Apr 27, 2013.

  1. Chloe88

    Chloe88 New Member

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    Hi, I'm Chloe!

    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!

    :eek:

    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. :(

    Any help would be appreciated.
     
  2. Apyl

    Apyl New Member

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  3. Chloe88

    Chloe88 New Member

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    Thanks for the site link! It helped a little. :)
     
  4. Sweetened

    Sweetened New Member

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    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.

    Good luck.
     
  5. Chloe88

    Chloe88 New Member

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    Your post helped a lot. I will breed for survivability from now on...

    Anyway, I think the rooster is a bit worse today. He just lies around now, and seems a bit disinterested in food. I think I'll have to start forcing him to drink.
     
  6. Sweetened

    Sweetened New Member

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    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.

    Send me a PM if you need anything. All the best.
     
  7. Chloe88

    Chloe88 New Member

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    Wow, thanks for the advice!

    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.
     
  8. Sweetened

    Sweetened New Member

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    I hope it helped, at least somewhat, Chloe.

    Please let me know what ultimately happens. I am sending you a quick PM.
     
  9. Chloe88

    Chloe88 New Member

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    Well, the pullet of the pair died a very quick an sudden death... The rooster was culled. It had to be done... My whole flock is probably contaminated now, but why tempt fate. Oh well.
     
  10. GratefulGirl

    GratefulGirl New Member

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    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!
     
  11. Sweetened

    Sweetened New Member

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    Hi Chloe;
    I am also very sorry to hear of your losses. I have been meaning to reply to this thread, however haven’t had a minute, really to spare. I’m sneaking time from work now *Snicker*.

    My advice on Marek’s is unconventional and chemical free (as is all my advice); do not take it as “God’s word”. Take it as what it is: experience that has worked for me on my farm – experience is a far greater teacher than any manual.

    My number one first advice: STOP SANITIZING. When I brood chicks in succession, I only empty out half of the old bedding and refill it with new. Life is not sanitary, the environment they will live in will not be sanitary. There will be poop on the floor you can’t get every day, the inside will get wet once or twice while you’re learning and they’ll be damp for a day; your birds will get sick, they will sneeze, they will, no matter what you do. Everybody gets sick, chickens included, it’s nature’s way of weeding out the sick, the old, and the dying. Marek’s cannot be prevented by being clean.

    Mareks vaccination successes are highly disputed among individuals. Large hatchery chicks will often vaccinate, however smaller hatcheries, some of which I’ve spoken to personally, do not. In particular, one I know did a double blind test with vaccinated vs unvaccinated chicks (in separate buildings with the same exposures) and found the unvaccinated chicks did better and had less losses. She no longer vaccinates for mareks.

    I do not feed medicated starter. Medicated starter, to me, is like giving birth to a perfectly healthy child and putting it on a run of anti-biotics for the first year of its life. You know, just in case. If you want to give them an immune boost, make a mash out of their feed mixed in a 1:2 ratio of yogurt to feed and/or mix whey 1:1 into their water (or provide straight whey instead of water). The probiotics in the yogurt and whey increase friendly gut flora to combat the coccidiosis that medicated feed is intended to quell.

    Mareks is shed by wild birds and infected poultry alike. If it is in your area (ie, ‘as the crow flies’), your flock will be exposed to it. If you attend sales and auctions, it’s probable your flock will be exposed to it. Many people, innocently, sell birds without realizing their flock has been exposed. Imho, the only way to combat the disease IS exposure, breeding strong birds.

    Another thing you can do to naturally expose them to a non-infectious version of the virus is to run turkey’s in your flock. Even just one or two. Turkeys are carriers of a similar virus that is not contractible by chickens, however will allow them to build up immunity or will expose weak chickens, potentially, by a decrease in immune function if their bodies are overwhelmed; it is highly probable, in my experience, that those birds would succumb to Marek’s anyway.

    Unless you plan to maintain an enclosed system with biological containment, you will always run the potential of exposure. In the few years I have owned chickens, I have learned there is a gap that needs to be bridged as part of who I am. I, after my first loss to Mareks (it hit and ultimately resulted in me putting down my beloved pet rooster), I realized that as their protector, I must also be their end if conditions are right (or wrong, however you look at it). A 7% flock loss per year is considered normal. With chickens, by the time you realize something is wrong, it is often pretty far along. Even with Mareks in my flock, on the 3rd year of hatches, my loss rates are STILL under the 4% mark. Most of my losses come from moving young birds from the brooder to the coop, where they are bombarded with the outside world and immunological attacks. To quell the losses, I feed yogurt and aloe vera juice to keep gut flora regulated and balanced, avoiding coccidiosis. Chicks hatched by a broody rarely encounter these problems, and seem hardier from the get go. If mother hen kicks one aside, I allow her to make that decision, because she knows better than I do.

    Please feel free to send me a PM. I’m happy, always, to answer questions with my experience.

    Best regards.
     
  12. GratefulGirl

    GratefulGirl New Member

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    Sweetened, thanks so much for sharing your experiences and for the reality check. I have alot to learn including how to "put my big girl britches on" so to speak and doing what it takes sometimes in the best interest of the chicken. Best regards, Becky
     
  13. Sweetened

    Sweetened New Member

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    Hello Becky;

    Hike them up :) Throw yourself in headlong, read everything you can, listen to what everyone has to say (even if you don't agree) and then do what rings true to you. Some people cull at any sign of Mareks, others, like me, believe survivability breeds resistance. I understand that when I keep a bird that shows symptom,s but does not get beyond the line at which I'll cull, it will shed the disease for the rest of its life. However I think both immunity and resistance are breed-worthy traits to the eventual prevention of recurrence in my flock. I will allow a bird with symptoms to live as long as it can feed, water and defend itself in the pecking order. However once it's beyond that point, I will cull. It is sad for me every time, I cry, every time (heck I cry when I cull for the freezer!).

    If I can ever help you, never hesitate.
     
  14. Chloe88

    Chloe88 New Member

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    I've been researching what to do, and I came to this conclusion.

    Mareks is usually only spread from bird to bird, through urine and feces and dander. Therefore, if you don't contaminate your flock with a "carrier" bird, your flock is 88% safe.

    Carrier birds that HAVE RECOVERED from Mareks don't usually show signs of the disease, unless they become very stressed. Mareks is like herpes in humans, particularly mouth herpes. It resurges when the animal is stressed or ill in another way. In other words, be very aware of the birds you buy.

    If you want to be as safe as possible, vaccinate your birds BUT know that even birds with vaccinations can get Mareks.

    And also realize that you can't keep your birds completely safe & healthy. Chances are at least one of your birds will be eaten by a predator or die with disease. None of my birds have been preyed upon yet but all my birds have some stage of bird respiratory illness (a cold) and not a few have lice. It's unavoidable to some extent.

    The bottom line is, be very careful of the birds you buy. All of the problems I have in my flock have been from imported birds. Bugs, colds, and Mareks.

    But good luck with your flock. :p Don't get too caught up in keeping things clean/clean/clean. It's a lot of work keeping chickens immaculate, particularly as they reach adulthood. Just keep their shelter pretty clean, with clean regular food & water, and space to roam a little.

    Good luck with your new flock, Grateful Girl. :)
     
  15. Sweetened

    Sweetened New Member

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    Where did you get this info from? ALL research I have done has shown Mareks is spread only through dander only and thus spread by inhalation. I'm interested to read that info as well, it'll help me in the future.

    Thanks!
     
  16. Chloe88

    Chloe88 New Member

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  17. Sweetened

    Sweetened New Member

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    Ah yes, I have both of these papers saved and they are my primary go to sources for referencing symptoms. They also list dander as the cause for spread.

    No need to thank me. I just hope my experience helps someone. All the best, Chloe and, again, sorry for your loss.
     
  18. Chloe88

    Chloe88 New Member

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    Thank-you.