Marek’s disease is a type of avian cancer caused by a virus. It primarily affects chickens between the ages of 4-20 weeks. Marek’s is highly contagious and has been found all over the United States. It is spread through inhalation of feather dander/dust and excretions from infected chickens. Marek’s can survive for months in the environment where previously infected birds were kept. It is not spread through the eggs laid by infected hens or the chicks that may result from hatching those eggs.
Common symptoms of Marek’s disease include:
- Paralysis in the legs, wings, and/or neck
- Vision impairment or irregular iris shape and/or color
- Weight and muscle loss
- Depression and lethargy
- Greenish colored diarrhea
Diagnosis of Marek’s disease is typically done by necropsy but this is not definitive due to the fact Marek’s can mimic another disease called Avian Leukosis. There is currently no known treatment for Marek’s but there is a vaccine available. The vaccine is injected in the back of a chick’s neck just under the skin within 24 hours after hatching. It’s important to remember the vaccine does not prevent chickens from acquiring or spreading Marek’s but it does help reduce the severity of clinical signs. Other methods of prevention are sanitary control procedures, strict biosecurity practices, and genetic selection (breeding for resistance).
The Marek’s vaccination is an optional service that we offer on standard breed chickens. Meyer Hatchery recommends this service because the disease is easily spread. A single vaccination grants lifelong immunity but is not 100% effective; about 5% of chicks vaccinated may still contract the disease. Meyer Hatchery is not responsible for loss or damages due to Marek’s Disease, even if your chicks were vaccinated.
If you request the Marek’s Vaccination service and also order a Meyer Meal Maker, your Meyer Meal Maker will also be vaccinated. All free extras will be vaccinated as well.