Photo by: faungg’s photo
Marek’s disease is a highly contagious and frightening phenomenon, characterized by paralysis of the legs, wings, and neck, vision impairment, weight loss, and raised and roughened skin around feather follicles. This herpes virus infection shows up in various manifestations: neurological, visceral, and cutaneous. It is also highly fatal and if your chickens get the disease, there is no cure. What can one do to protect their flock against Marek’s Disease? Vaccinating your chicks against Marek’s Disease is a good place to start.
To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate
While it is common practice to vaccinate all newly hatched chicks in large factory farms, it is not always done in small flocks. Vaccination is an excellent way to prevent the adverse effect of diseases, but even greater is careful sanitation and effective flock management. Small backyard farmers may not vaccinate because they have never had a problem with disease in their flock. That is entirely possible and this is the case with many backyard chickens. Or perhaps they are not aware disease is present, don’t know how to diagnose a disease or get the disease diagnosed, don’t know where to buy vaccines, or don’t know how to give a vaccine.
Introducing new birds into your flock greatly increases the risk that your birds will be introduced to a new disease as well. If you buy birds from an outside source, it’s a wise idea to vaccinate. If you take your birds to poultry shows or have had problems with disease in the past, it’s a great idea to get your chicks vaccinated. While it is entirely up to you whether or not to vaccinate your birds, it can save you a whole lot of heartache and hassle later on.
When To Vaccinate Against Marek’s Disease
Chicks are generally vaccinated against Marek’s Disease on the day they hatch. This is done at the hatchery and is given subcutaneously at the back of the chick’s neck. If you order chicks from a hatchery, they should already be vaccinated for Marek’s Disease. Be sure to ask just in case!
Chicks between the age of 2-16 weeks are quite susceptible to Marek’s Disease, so if your chicks hatched at home or you purchased them from a supplier that did not vaccinate before delivery, consider vaccinating yourself. The vaccine can be purchased online from livestock supply companies such as Jeffers Livestock. Here is a link for Marek’s Disease vaccine for day old chicks: read more here. Since it must be administered to day old-chicks, order before your chicks hatch. Your local farm supply store may also have the vaccine.