Help! I think my flock has Marek's Disease!

Marek's disease affects chickens and sometimes turkeys living with chickens, and is a herpes virus infection. This affects the neurological, visceral, and cutaneous systems of the bird, and can spread quickly through flocks since it is contracted through the respiratory system.

Main Symptoms: 

  • Enlarged, red feather follicles and white bumps on the skin. Often form brown, crusty scabs.
  • Progressive leg or wing paralysis. A typical leg-paralysis victim will have one leg extended forward and one leg extended back.

Other Factors to Consider:

  • Marek's is a disease that usually appears around 4 months of age.
  • Marek's is not able to be diagnosed by fecal matter. An Avian Veterinarian will have to have a necropsy (examination of a bird who died of an illness) done in a lab for proper diagnosis.
  • Avian vets are still limited with some of this knowledge, and may have a hard time properly diagnosing something like this. There are a few other illnesses that can display some of the same symptoms as Marek's.
  • Cackle Hatchery started administering a new version of this vaccine in June of 2016 that is supposed to be 100% effective, and it is not a live virus. It does not shed. (Shedding means that a bird can shed the virus for many weeks or months afterwards and infect both vaccinated and unvaccinated chicks.)

Please feel free to read our blog about having strict Biosecurity measures in your flock to avoid illnesses like Marek's Disease here on our blog site.

Don't assume that because you have a sick bird that it has contracted Marek's Disease. We of course recommend consulting with a vet and quarantining any sick bird, but it's important not to jump to conclusions regarding Marek's. 

External Links to More About This Disease:

University of New Hampshire

The Chicken Vet

Biosecurity Tasmania

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