Wow, that was fast. I wasn't expecting to hear back from the California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab for a couple more weeks. Glad to know that something in our great state is running efficiently. Arnold could take a tip.
This entire chicken ordeal has had me vacillating between various diagnosis, armed only with my online vet education. It's like the blog version of "Stump the Chumps" with the Magliozzi brothers, except I know way less about chicken diseases than they know about cars. Let's see, I started with Coccidiosis, an easily treatable disease so if any chickens had it, it was gone in a week. We could rule that out as my mysterious bird killer. Then I went on to Marek's since the cluckers all seemed to suffer from some kind of paralysis before they bit the dust. This seemed plausible, but since the ladies were supposedly vaccinated and most of the birds died after 17 weeks of age, I began to believe that they had Avian Leukosis, which is symptomatically similar to Marek's but has a 16 week incubation period.
Well somewhere along the line I was right and in typical Tom and Ray fashion, I'm going to blow the brass horns and claim victory. Gertrude died of Marek's, plain and simple. No Cocci, no Avian Influenza, no Leukosis. This was not my fault. Clearly, I was misled. The chicks had not been vaccinated and my hens died of one of the most common and virulent diseases that exists in the poultry world. This is fantastic news! I know you're wondering why I would make such an outrageous claim with 6 dead bodies on my hands. I'll tell you why; I'm not going to have to temporarily depopulate the farm, warn my neighbors, don a hazmat suit with NIOSH/MSHA approved respirator, and decontaminate my property with a turbo anti-pathogenic spray. Marek's is absolutely everywhere and the only proven effective method of controlling the disease is through vaccination. That in itself is a huge load off my mind. And it means I can get new chooks! That is as long as they've been vaccinated as Sweet Pea will remain a carrier for life.
Guess where I'll be this weekend? That's right. Out cruising chicks.