Marek's Disease Pt 2
Part 2: Learning and Doing
Mid-March UC Davis did an in-depth necropsy on a sick hen I took in, and sent me the positive results for Marek’s Disease. I felt heartbroken and in a haze. At the time I really had no idea what this meant. All I knew about Marek’s was that if one has it, they all have it.
After giving myself time to process, I started researching. I started calling all my friends with chickens, reading articles online, and checking out books from the library. I really don’t know if this was a good thing or bad thing. I flooded myself with information and I really couldn’t keep it all straight. The only thought in my mind was – all my chickens are going to die, and there is nothing I can do to save them.
Marek’s Disease is one of the most common illnesses in backyard flocks and is not treatable. It’s mainly passed through dander from a carrier of the virus, (this can include other chickens as well as wild birds) and it can also live in the dirt. A lot of people have told me “If there is air in your coop, there is Marek’s.” Even though I know this was meant to tell me it was ok, I wanted to know how to get it out. Unfortunately, “getting it out” is not possible.
Marek’s is not necessarily a death sentence. A chicken can live a long happy life while carrying Marek’s, but you have to keep it’s immune system strong in all other areas. I believe my old hens have a stronger immune system, but my younger ones just don’t have the strength to fight it.
Marek’s is a form of herpes virus, and once the chicken has it, it will be infected for life. It’s typically found from ages 6-30 weeks old, which may be why I’m noticing it in my younger birds, and haven’t seen any signs in my hens that over a year old. Even with no symptoms, it is appropriate for me to believe they are all carriers of the virus.
I was told my young hens were vaccinated for Marek’s, I do not have proof of this one way or the other. IF they were vaccinated, they’re supposed to be somewhat protected from Marek’s but can still be carriers and pass it to other birds.
The Marek’s vaccine is called a “leaky” vaccine. Meaning it does not stop the disease, it only hopes to prevent the disease from causing serious harm. From what I’ve been dealing with, I don’t believe the chicks I got were vaccinated.
That being said, some researchers believe the vaccine isn’t helping us. It’s suppressing weaker strains of the virus, but the stronger strains are spreading faster. (I am absolutely so expert on this AT ALL, I am only sharing what I’ve read)
I called the vet at UC Davis to see if it’s possible for me to have chickens again. She told me to wait two months with no losses, and to possibly look into breeders that are breeding for resistance. Still – not saying they can’t carry it, but that are hopefully bread with a stronger immune system that won’t be affected by it.
So, what am I doing about it?
I’m doing everything I can to keep their immunity as strong as possible. My hope is that by keeping my chickens as healthy as possible will keep the Marek’s from coming to surface.
I often add oregano and garlic to their food. I add apple cider vinegar to their water, about 1 tablespoon per gallon of water. Fresh Eggs Daily also has a great little recipe for another extra boost. I also have a spray bottle with water and 15 drops of VetRX. Every evening when I close the coop, I spray all of them.
I do not hold my chickens regularly. If I need to hold them, I go straight to our mudroom and change into clean clothes, and wash the clothes I was wearing. I have a pair of boots that are strictly for the chicken coop. This is about me taking action in NOT spreading Marek’s elsewhere.
I clean out my chicken coop once a week. I have laminate floors which I HIGHLY recommend. They were wood before but our neighbor had some rolled up in his basement that he gave me. Thank you to my friend Kelsey for this recommendation. For cleaning the coop I use this castile soap and white vinegar.
I also use essential oils when I can. My dear friend Lailand sent me all this information which has been so helpful in my journey. It’s helpful for the chickens and me!
A silver lining is that all the eggs are completely safe to eat. I could even safely breed my birds. If I brought the chicks into an incubator they would be born without Marek’s. I will not be doing this, but it’s good to know. If the future if I do decide to get more chickens, they will be older than 6 months, from a TRUSTED breeder, and they will also have a 30 day quarantine period at my house.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. If you have any questions at all please feel free to ask. You can comment here, or for a quicker response you can message me on Instagram here.
Click here for information on UC Davis Necropsy (it costs $20)
Essential Oils - chickens
Typically used an a natural antibiotic. In animals, it can be added to water or food as a preemptive antibiotics. Also can be diffused for bronchiole issues. Can also be used for warts, growths and skin tags.
Can be used as a natural anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral. Also great for cleaning, bug repellant, burns, wound and scar care, itchy skin, poison oak, pain management, thrush, ticks and PMS. Can be diffused, applied topically or ingested to both humans and animals.
Anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, decongestant, anti-parasitic. Great for bug repellant, fungus, bronchiole issues, ringworm, cuts and scrapes.
Mix with a carrier oil (coconut or sesame) for topical applications. Mix with white vinegar for cleaning/repellant
Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, expectorant. Great for asthma, bronchitis, lung issues, sinus issues, lice, bug repellant. Can apply topically with or without a carrier oil - in animals, always use a carrier oil. Great to mix with vinegar and spray on coop walls and floor for bug repellant.
Drip a couple drops onto your shower head and inhale the steam after a day of breathing dust or crap.