Mareks disease

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13 years 1 week ago #19346 by pataka
Mareks disease was created by pataka
I received this e-mail via the chicken rescue site - I dont know enough to help her but I have told Sarah someone here probably does......

Hi we have recently lost two chickens to what the vet has said is Mareks disease. But local chicken breeders reckon there has been no Mareks disease in the area for donkey’s years. So slightly stumped! Basically the symptoms have been one foot 'balling' (curling under itself) and then it progresses to one sided paralysis and jerky movement, which is an obvious sign of neurological damage (similar to the jerky movements humans suffer with motor neurone, MS and other neurological diseases) Eventually the birds are unable to support themselves or eat effectively. The first one died in April after us thinking she had an infection and treating her for that, and the 2nd one we had put to sleep last at the vets as soon as she displayed the same paralysis so she wouldn’t suffer. Sadly she was our 'lead hen' and the rest are struggling now with returning to the roost and other things where she would lead them and tell them what to do. All of our girls we purchased together in January from a chicken farm and while not totally battery hens they were near to that situation but slightly less deformed and damaged, they were all year old plus birds. Before we look at restocking our chickens we would be interested to know if anyone has had any similar experiences, if it could be anything other than Mareks disease as if it is Mareks we cannot restock as evidently once it is in your stock you cannot get rid of it as it is carried in their dander and no matter how much you clean and disinfect there will always be traces on your land. We love our girls and really miss the two we have lost and would like to get some more as well as we have lots of free range land and they have a safe warm hen house at night, but need to be assured that we wont be bringing them into a diseased flock. Any ideas suggestions gratefully received.
Sarah

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13 years 1 week ago #287121 by Sue
Replied by Sue on topic Mareks disease
For two reasons it is unlikely that these deaths were due to Mareks disease.

Firstly because they were older birds and it rarely affects birds older than 20-25 weeks old and secondly, if they were commercial layers, whether from a barn housed, battery cage or free range commercial farm they will have been vaccinated at day old against Mareks disease.

It is a fallacy that Mareks disease is no longer around! It is everywhere and the saying goes, if it breathes it has been exposed to Mareks!

Some breeders lines can have a degree of hereditary immunity which seems to be associated in certain blood groups. This would further reinforce their opinion it is not around, it is just their birds are immune-or they don't recognise it when it strikes. Mortality can be around 25%, so if you don't have many birds and lose one or two, they probably don't notice![:0]
It can come in a variety of symptoms, blindness, lameness, dragging one wing or just sudden death.

But back to these deaths, the birds would be around 2 years old as end of lay birds are usually 70 or 80 weeks old when the sheds are emptied.

A couple of causes that spring to mind are mineral/vitamin deficiency and poisoning, shortage of possibly B and D vitamins.
Many quite common weeds and garden plants are toxic to chooks and can cause neurological symptoms.
Nightshade berries, sweet pea and everlasting peas, karaka unripe berries and hemlock can all cause, paralysis, convulsions and neurological symptoms.

As regards further stock, you should have no worries about any future stock catching Mareks as a) birds catch it in the first 2 weeks of life from older birds, feather dander etc. the incuabetion period can be 3 or 4 months
b) Commercial layers are all vaccinated so will be 99% immune, if arriving as adults into a place where poultry are already present.

Mareks is present in virtually every poultry place, it is how well the birds can cope with the challenge which counts!

Sue
Labrador lover for yonks, breeder of pedigree Murray Grey cattle for almost as long, and passionate poultry person for more years than I care to count.

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13 years 1 week ago #287197 by Simkin
Replied by Simkin on topic Mareks disease
Hi Pataka,

I know that there are books around that say you should never keep chickens again if you had Marek's. I put them into the same category as books that say that the Earth is flat.

Fanciers breed from the survivors to produce healthy disease resistant stock. You always loose a few but that's no reason for giving up.

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11 years 10 months ago #349279 by Attila
Replied by Attila on topic Mareks disease
Hi, I had a flock of 10 chickens (2 Roosters and rest hens) of different varieties. 1 Pekin, 1 Araucana, 4 Houdan, 3 Silver Laced Wyandotte, and one other I do not know the name of.
I purchased them from a breeder in Upper Hutt at an early age (all around 6 - 8 weeks) and so far I have lost 4 of them. One was quite sudden (the Araucana) and the others quite slowly over a period of a few weeks. My neighbour also has Silver Laced Wyandottes and one of his got the same symptoms as mine but seemed to recover. My flock are now all around the 34 week age so hopefully the rest should survive as I am led to believe that they are most succeptible up to about 30 weeks of age. I did not know about Mareks until I e-mailed a vet called Neil Christensen who replied that it may have been Mareks. I am going to resupply with an additional 10 chooks (as I have a large rural property) and see how they go. In the future I may explore the options of an incubator and maybe vaccinate them? Sympathise with you

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11 years 10 months ago #349304 by Sue
Replied by Sue on topic Mareks disease
HI Attila, welcome to the site. Neil is a specialist poultry vet and you can trust his judgement! Mareks is very, very common and it is a how well birds cope with the challenge or whether they have any genetic immunity which will help.

You will not be able to vaccinate as it is a very specialised vaccine, usually stored in liquid nitrogen and supplied in 1,000 dose vials and has to be mixed with a diluent and used within2 hours of opening the bottle, to be effective. It is also a minute dose, .2ml, which is injected into the skin at the back of the neck of a day old chick.
Also it can only be given to day old chicks which will have no contact with adult birds for theat least the first 2 or 3 weeks of life and preferably during the brooding period ie the first 6 weeks of life.

Young birds only catch it, from older birds when it is shed in their skin flakes and feather dander, during those early weeks. After that they will be fine.

Severly affected birds rarely recover, except from the form known as transient paralysis.

Sue
Labrador lover for yonks, breeder of pedigree Murray Grey cattle for almost as long, and passionate poultry person for more years than I care to count.

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11 years 10 months ago #349384 by Attila
Replied by Attila on topic Mareks disease
Thanks Sue. Guess I will just have to play the numbers game then. I ideally want to get up to around 20 chooks eventually. Is it worth getting some ex-commercial hens once they get sold off? Do they still lay OK?

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11 years 10 months ago #349387 by Sue
Replied by Sue on topic Mareks disease
If you are looking at getting commercial hens they will all have been vaccinated against Mareks disease and Salmonella at hatching. Whilst no vaccines are 100% guaranteed they will give 99% protection provided the vaccination was done correctly (human error!) and the chicks did not come into contact with the feather dander from adult birds in those important first few weeks of life.

You can buy commercial layers as day old chicks, growing pullets or as end of season hens.

The growing pullets will cost around $16 to $18, depends where you get them from, but they should lay at least 250 eggs if not more, in their first year. On a commercial farm they lay 300 or more.
The end of lays maybe cost $2 to $5. The end of lay hens will need a bit of a rest and feeding up while they adjust to life in a different set up-maybe 2 months before they start to lay again, but you should expect about 150 to 200 eggs from their second season for very little outlay except feed.

If you buy second season hens from a breeder either of a fancy breed or a barnyard special they too will be past the age when Mareks disease would cause a problem.
Really depend whether you want a rare breed, a fancy breed, or just a bird which lays plenty of eggs!

Sue
Labrador lover for yonks, breeder of pedigree Murray Grey cattle for almost as long, and passionate poultry person for more years than I care to count.

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9 years 11 months ago #436773 by ROKKiwis
Replied by ROKKiwis on topic Mareks disease
Hi,

I have followed this stream with interest as...

...we were given a North Holland Blue rooster and hen some six months ago with a couple of Silver Wyandott hens. The four have been happy together and we have had a good yield of eggs, and the rooster seems to be doing his bit for propagation of the species...until a few days ago, when he started walking into things and falling over. We thought it might have been foot problems given the amount of rain and wet we've had...we put some antiseptic on his feet, and he seemed to recover for a short period. Today, he has not been able to walk at all (no strength in his legs), and we have separated him from the hens and put him in a warm dry area. His eyes still seem bright and his plumage seems clean and shiny. He has some small black dots/spots on his feet and comb and wattle. He does not seem to be in any pain even when we handle him and treat his feet/legs etc. When we asked around, it was suggested that he could have Marek's disease...having read your stream here, I have my doubts...any thoughts advice???

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9 years 11 months ago #436856 by Sue
Replied by Sue on topic Mareks disease
Hi and welcome ROKKiwis! Yes you are correct in supposing your rooster is not suffering from Mareks disease, assuming he is over a year old?
Is it possible he could have eaten something-is he on free range?

Did you actually see any swellings or hot areas on his feet or do they look normal.
There are several conditions whch cause birds to go 'off their legs' Mareks is only usually found in birds up to 6 months old.

Can you post pictures of the black dots/spots? It is possible he could have Fowl Pox.
www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/index.jsp?cfile=htm/bc/204801.htm Although the inability to walk doesn't fit the symptoms.

Here is a link to Mareks disease as well. www.shagbarkbantams.com/page9.htm
www.thepoultrysite.com/diseaseinfo/90/mareks-disease

Sue
Labrador lover for yonks, breeder of pedigree Murray Grey cattle for almost as long, and passionate poultry person for more years than I care to count.

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9 years 2 months ago #462598 by Veronique
Replied by Veronique on topic Mareks disease
Hello, I have a 6 year old rooster falling backwards on his butt and showing neurological signs (mainly due to loss of balance). My vet says he has Marek's but everything I am reading says he is too old. Any other suggestion? I love this bird and I really would like to help him.
Thank you very much

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9 years 2 months ago #462619 by HarryPotter
Replied by HarryPotter on topic Mareks disease
I would say that your rooster would be unlikely to have Mareks Disease given his age. There could be a host of reasons why he is showing these symptoms but, as Sue points out above it could be to a mineral/vitamin deficiency or a toxicity issue.
If you, could, provide a bit more info. Is he caged? What is he fed? Other syptoms?
One thing I have discovered with chooks, once they go down hill, diagnosis is firstly an issue, treatment can be more of an issue and even when you do try your best, they tend to not make it through.
Having an antibiotic on hand can be useful, especially the water soluble sort.

Sharing the pad with Harry the Australian Terrorist, Penny the Bearded Collie, Bev the Schnauzer/beardie and her daughters Nellie and Charlotte. (Dad was a Hungarian Vizsla) + lots of chooks. [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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9 years 2 months ago #462630 by Sue
Replied by Sue on topic Mareks disease
Hi and welcome to LSB Veronique!
Yes, as you have read earlier on this thread, and reinforced by Harry Potter, your rooster is far too old to be suffering from Mareks disease.

His inability to keep his balance could be due to issues with his brain caused by age, tumours, a small bleed, mites in his ears, a mineral deficiency or a toxin-or it could be due to a leg or foot problem.
Without anymore symptoms it is a bit hard to give you any further suggestions.

Here are a few tips on possibilities.

Toxins causing incoordination, paralysis and other neurological disturbances:-

antifreeze, nightshade (esp green berries) box, datura, everlasting pea, karaka, botulism, some algae.

Inability to stand or lameness:-
Bumblefoot, Rickets (calcium phosphorous imbalance) Staphylococcal or viral arthritis, gout,

If you can add anything more what he is being fed, his condition for age (heavy or light) what breed, condition of his feet and legs, whether he has access to free range etc, we might be able to help more.

Sue
Labrador lover for yonks, breeder of pedigree Murray Grey cattle for almost as long, and passionate poultry person for more years than I care to count.

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9 years 2 months ago #462637 by Veronique
Replied by Veronique on topic Mareks disease
He was rescued as a chick on the Belmont race track new New York City with a hen. I got them both as juvenile. I now have 9 hens descending from those 2. I rescued 3 battery hens. I had them for about 2 yrs before they passed. My rooster Orville is now 6. My flock is pretty much a close flock with no outside introduction in the last 5 years. Orville lives in a converted horse stall with a fenced pen about 8 m by 4 m. He eats the same layer pellets as the girls, corn and sun flower seeds as scratches and dry meal worm as treats. He has access to water and to the pellets ad lib. No change in his diet. He also gets greens in the spring (grass, weeds...) and summer.

About 3 months ago I noticed he wasn't perching on his high perch anymore and was using one of the laying boxes. Except for that he was fine. About a week ago I noticed him on the floor in the evening (all the girls are broody). He was having issues getting up and would fall backwards. He is getting worse, his balance is very insecure. He seemed fine during the day but today started to show balance issues during the day. He still crows and eats and breed his hens, but all his tails feathers are broken and he is getting more insecure.

My avian vet says that only Marek causes that specific type of unbalance. But I haven't been able to find anything about such an old bird being affected. His diet hasn't changed so I don't know if vitamin deficiency is likely.

If it is Marek, how worried should I be about the rest of my flock? My vet says there is nothing I can do at this point since they all have been exposed. I have a pet hen and a rooster that are leaving in my house and have no contact with Orville except through me. I am being very careful (changing shoes, disinfecting my hands and using a special coat) but is it enough?

Thank you so much for you help. I am at loss.

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9 years 2 months ago #462643 by Veronique
Replied by Veronique on topic Mareks disease
Hi Sue,
Thank you for your answer. I posted a reply with the information you are asking for but I think it needs to be approved before it can be posted (by you maybe?).

My avian vet told me this morning that his backwards loss of balance was very typical of Marek and nothing else really could cause that specific problem. I don't know what to think since she knows the age of my bird...

There is really no other symptom beside the fact that he can't balance ( especially after laying down or flying) and is very stressed about it. Other than that he is still eating and breeding his hens. But I can tell he is getting more and more insecure. He is not falling sideways, only backward and forward from over compensating. He is lowering both of his wings to try to steady himself. I had a rooster with an ear infection and though he was unbalanced as well, it looked nothing like that.

Please let me know if you need more info between this post and the previous one. Thank you so much

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9 years 2 months ago #462666 by Sue
Replied by Sue on topic Mareks disease
Hi again Veronique, I wrote a long reply and then while looking for some more information for you, managed to lose it!

Have you read the links re Mareks I posted earlier in the thread?
Here are another couple!
www.lah.de/Marek-s-Disease.103.0.html

www.avianweb.com/mareksdisease.html

I disagree with your vet that falling over backwards is a typical symptom of Mareks disease! I also disagree with her that it is a possible cause in a 6 year old rooster! All the literature points to the fact that even deaths at 40 weeks old is late for Late onset Mareks disease!

I may not be a Vet, but 3 years specialist poultry training in the UK plus 40 years commercial poultry experience qualifies me to know a little about Mareks disease. I was even around before the vaccine was developed and since then have also vaccinated several 1,000's of day old chicks against the disease too.

I disagree that this is Mareks disease!

He is a reasonably old bird, probably middle aged if he is a heavy breed. His diet is probably OK, as he doesn't have access to free range where he could have picked up something toxic.

Have you felt him recently, is he heavy or light? Are you sure he is drinking OK. Sometime big combs can prevent roosters getting their head in some drinkers and dehydration can cause balance problems, especially if they lose weight, as birds that don't drink enough don't eat enough-but that might be clutching at proverbial straws!

Have you examined his feet and legs? Is one hotter than the other, indicating an infection?
Feel the hock joints, do they feel swollen?
Look at the foot pads, any sign of scabs or swelling?
Feel the leg above the hock for swollen or lumpy tendons just behind the joint.
Heavy roosters can sometimes snap these tendons, or get a staph infection causing arthritis in the joint.

In the end I feel it is probably more to do with his balance stemming from the brain, inner ear or spine. More than likely due to age as much as anything so probably not a lot that you can do. Did the vet give you anything?
A general AB like Baytril, (expensive!) could help if there was infection involved but at this age it may not be worth the expense :(

Sue
Labrador lover for yonks, breeder of pedigree Murray Grey cattle for almost as long, and passionate poultry person for more years than I care to count.

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