Marek's Disease has struck our flock of chickens and devastated them. We've lost 7 hens since March, 5 of whom died in the last 4 weeks--one each week except this week, when we lost two, Bridgette and Loretta. All of the 7 were young, adult hens under the age of three who were perfectly healthy otherwise. Sadly, Bridgette was one of the ex-battery hens that we had adopted, hoping to give her a better life.
Loretta died in my arms about 5 hours ago.
is a horrible disease, viral in nature and ultra-common with no
treatment or cure. It tends to strike chickens from the age of chicks
up to about 4 years, and it's so prevalent that they say if you've got
chickens, you've got Marek's in your flock. Birds go from 'fine' to
dead in 3-4 days. Older birds are usually immune to it, having had time
to build up an immunity. I figure it came in this year in the Spring
crop of wild birds, which hang around the back yard. Nothing can be
done to keep them out. There is a vaccine available online, but you
have to order it timed to coincide with your hatch because it doesn't
last for more than a few days and must be administered immediately. And
the lack of avian vets around here, especially for chickens, means that
no vets have it on hand, either.
Our only course of action is to
watch the chickens like a hawk, and immediately isolate any that look
even REMOTELY ill. We have 13 young hens that are at risk from Marek's
right now, all the rest are at least 5 years old and so should be safe.
The younger they are, the more at risk they are. So far the babies
from last year and the baby chicks that are now 7 weeks old are fine,
but we are supposed to turn the 6 week olds out into the flock for good
in one week. I don't know how that's going to go, we're going to have
to play it by ear...
Things REALLY suck right now, I'm quite
frustrated and depressed. I've spent days combing the Internet and my
bird books for anything and everything I can read on Marek's, but it's