Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Marek's Revisited

What better time than Mercury retrograde to revisit old problems (as Californians, we have the obligation of referencing astrological happenings with every possible opportunity) and as long time readers of this blog well know, one of our biggest problems on the farm has been Marek's. What an appropriate time for one of our hens to fall ill.

The other morning when I opened the coop door for the ladies, Ruby, our Black Australorp, hopped to the ground and just kind of stayed there, crouched and unable to fully stand. Crap! No need to consult the experts on this one. I knew. But just to confirm, I picked her up and pressed a finger into the center pad of a foot. Nothing. Paralysis was setting in. This was definitely Marek's. But all our birds had been vaccinated, which is 95-98% effective! Pretty much sums up my luck with chickens.

I should have known that she might not have been right since she hadn't been on the roosting bar for a couple months and had stopped laying. However, it's winter so I figured that she had stopped laying due to dwindling daylight. The roosting thing I chalked up to her being low on the pecking order. But I guess in retrospect that didn't make much sense since she had been one big ass bird back in September.

As always , it was my little Googlebear to the rescue. But this time it had nothing to do with a cure and everything to do with a practical solution: compost pile or dinner table. Don't cringe, my dears. We've lost so many birds to this disease that it seemed like such a waste to bury another.

Well kiddos, it seems that it is perfectly fine to eat a bird with Marek's. In fact, you probably already have at some point as almost all birds have been exposed to it. An infected bird most often develops lesions or tumors on the nervous system in the legs and neck. Like cancer in animals, the disease doesn't transfer to humans.

I culled Ruby within a few hours of determining that she was ill. The poor thing had become very thin, her skin so loose that only the sharpest of knives would do the deed. There was barely any food in her crop, save for a few greens, and almost nothing in her intestines. I cradled her in my arms before I sent her to the big sleep. She was a good, sweet bird who laid a few giant eggs in her short strut upon this stage. I was sad to have her go.

I know a lot of you out there are thinking "Gross!". Yeah, that's what I thought last year. This time around I'm thinking stew pot and tamales. Waste not, want not.

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  1. Its always a tough decision (sometimes literally tough) when a bird tends to be culled. Sometimes we just bury the very old ones in the garden so we add some fertility, as its just not worth the effort of preparing them for eating. I also give them a little cuddle before hubby chops off their heads :) We have had a few drop dead, but I didn't know what caused it, could have been mareks, but I wouldn't have known what it was. We don't vaccinate ours, so it must not be too bad over here or they'd all be dead! I hope the rest of them stay well for you.

  2. Man that sucks. I'm really sorry. I guess that 2% is more serious for you since it has been confirmed on your property previously. Mareks is a son of a bitch and I hope the rest of your birds are alright.

  3. I'm sad for the loss of your chicken, but glad you made her life worthwhile, until the very end. That is the good part about raising farm animals and learning to process them.

    I really don't know anything about Mareks, but we have our first flock of chickens...I better study up.