gift
6 Ways To Keep Chickens - pdf download
will be released to subscribers in: soon!
Win a copy of Homegrown Linen this week in the Plant Fibers forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com pie forums private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Pearl Sutton
stewards:
  • Mike Haasl
  • paul wheaton
  • Devaka Cooray
master gardeners:
  • Steve Thorn
  • Carla Burke
  • jordan barton
  • Leigh Tate
gardeners:
  • Greg Martin
  • Jay Angler
  • thomas rubino

Marek's disease vaccine quandary in chickens

 
pollinator
Posts: 235
Location: Central Indiana, zone 6a, clay loam
120
forest garden foraging medical herbs
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've been doing lots of reading in preparation to get chickens this spring and have run into a bit of a quandary in my decision making. I had heard of Marek's disease and the advice to just vaccinate against it. But then I read here that the Marek's vaccine is "leaky" and therefore doesn't stop the virus from replicating and spreading to another host. This means it essentially encourages deadlier strains of Marek's to develop and spread. And it apparently can cause vaccinated birds to shed up to 10,000 times more virus! I worry about that since it is unclear to me whether wild birds can catch Marek's disease. I've certainly read plenty of articles suggesting they can spread it, but I've found very little consistent information. Some things say only chickens can get it, others say wild birds can spread it and I found one scientific paper saying wild geese had caught it (in Japan). We have a ton of wild birds that we've been working to create habitat for and I don't want to do something that may harm them, let alone spread and become a bigger problem. I also don't want to lose a ton of chickens to a disease when I could prevent it. And then there's the consideration that I have several friends who have chickens, at least some of whom I know are vaccinated. I wouldn't want to be worrying that if we visit, it could introduce a dangerous virus to my flock if I don't vaccinate them. Its possible I'm overthinking this, but it seems kind of complex, since there are many things at play here and it seems hard to balance them all. Just to be clear, I am not trying to debate whether vaccines as a whole are good or bad. I just want to feel I am making an informed and appropriate decision for my situation.

Another piece of the puzzle...I'd really prefer to get chicks from a small, local breeder rather than a hatchery. The only such folks I've found so far don't vaccinate. We don't have the ability to keep a rooster and thus could only add to the flock over time by buying chicks or adults. At least in my mind, it seems like having unvaccinated birds would make adding to the flock hazardous to the newcomers and possibly the established birds too. I realize that if I get chicks that aren't vaccinated, I could do it myself. Though it does seem a bit impractical, as the only bottles I can find are way more doses than the 10 or less I would need.

I'm really curious what other permies do about this. Do you vaccinate your chickens for Marek's? Why or why not? Have you had any issues either way? If you don't vaccinate, what measures do you take to keep your flock healthy?
Does anyone know more about whether or not wild birds can contract Marek's disease from chickens? I am especially interested in this question, as that seems like potentially a major problem for wild birds if they can.
I'd really like to get back to a place where thinking about getting chickens felt like a happy thing instead of a massive source of confusion and worry!
 
pollinator
Posts: 3648
Location: Toronto, Ontario
509
hugelkultur dog forest garden fungi trees rabbit urban wofati cooking bee homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Heather.

In short, I think you know what the issues are. If you use a bad vaccine, you're just breeding a stronger disease.

The real issue, I think, is that if you buy livestock prone to disease, they and their offspring will remain prone to that disease.

If you buy a mess of chickens, vaccinate nobody, and cull or otherwise don't breed any who get sick, the remainder are those with a natural immunity, or who are otherwise unpredisposed to get it.

These are the genetics you want. The only way to get there is to not interfere with the natural selection process, except to speed it up for the sake of easing suffering and financial outlay.

So you choose as best you can, so that your flock starts out as healthy as possible, and from there, you do nothing but separate the healthy ones from the ones who either get sick, or otherwise are outperformed in health and vitality. If they're just sickly, as in weak specimens, they will still make soup, stock, or omnivore feed. Some cautious sterilisation and cooking of non-infectious carcasses will render them useful, at least for composting.

And over time, the healthy ones breed with other healthy ones, and you keep removing weak and sickly ones, and your flock, over time, spread the immunity or natural resistance to disease that caused their chicken forebears to not be culled that first culling.

For me, the livestock vaccine quandary is this: if you vaccinate animals that otherwise would sicken and die, and breed those animals, you pass on their weakness; you end up breeding strains that require the vaccine to live.

That seems dumb to me, or at least short-sighted enough to make me ask if it's a permaculturally-aligned approach. Oh, certainly, treating one animal, one time, to alleviate its suffering and allow it to continue to live and work (but not breed) is understandable. But prophylactic vaccination of unfit livestock so they can live in poor conditions is why the majority of us deplore factory farm conditions and CAFOs. Why does it seem reasonable to extend their ideology even this far?

My advice in short: get strong birds that are unlikely to get sick. If you can get them locally, from a small-scale farmer or homesteader whose poultry you can meet, who also refuses to rely on vaccines, at least prophylactically, then that's your best starting point. If you're keeping everything to healthy bird spec, you might not even need to worry about vaccines.

And if so, remember that compassion is important, but saving an inferior individual does your breeding program no favours down the line.

But do keep posting, and good luck. It would be great to hear how you make out.

-CK
 
master steward & author
Posts: 22293
Location: Left Coast Canada
6416
books chicken cooking fiber arts sheep writing
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It's a tricky one, you know.  Each person will have to do what's right for their farm and their chooks.

For me, I don't buy hatchery chicks or chickens very often.  Most years, we hatch our own eggs.  For our home hatched hens I figure that I'm very careful about not introducing new birds to the flock and if someone gets sick or dies, I make sure I know why.  Even if that means sending the bird to the lab for tests.  I monitor the health of the flock daily.

My theory is that in a commercial hatchery there are a lot of chickens.  Often living inside.  I don't know the ventilation conditions or the hygiene requirements they have for their humans.  It seems to me, if someone is careless, that's the place the chicken is going to pick something up.  So when buying from a commercial outfit, I go with the vaccine option.  When home hatched, I don't.  

We have had illnesses go through the flock and one year we lost half our hens.  But this was a monoculture breed that we got as day olds from the big hatchery.  We culled the rest of the flock that winter and got a mixed heritage large brown egg layer from Murry Mac Murry (or whatever their name is, I haven't seen it written down).  Lots of genetic varation.  Very illness reistant.  We might bring in a new cock every 5 years or so, but the result of the decendants is a vibrant barnyard mix that has had very low casualty rates.  
 
pollinator
Posts: 545
Location: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
210
dog
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This may be a geographical issue - is it endemic in some areas, and not in others? Are their factory farms nearby that put you at greater risk?

As to it spreading to the wild, due to viral shedding - I would check with local wildlife rehabbers, Vets or fish and Game/Conservation to see IF this is an actual concern.

Vaccination causes the recipients body to develop an irritation that the body investigates and "takes note". From this it is analyzed, documented and a strategy to defeat this intruder is created, mounted, proven effective and logged for future use. This is how antibodies are created. These antibodies may or may not transfer to offspring - I truly do not know if this potentially transferred immunity ONLY happens in placental animals or if life created from an egg would be the same.

I will run this by my wildlife vet and see if they have any insight.

 
Lorinne Anderson
pollinator
Posts: 545
Location: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
210
dog
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So, ran this by my vet, and as suspected this is potentially a geographical issue.  Recommended contacting the gov't organization locally to see what is recommended in your area.  So long as you are quarantining any new birds for the recommended period of time, you are likely going to be okay, so long as this is not a huge issue in your area.  IF it is a big issue, vaccines should be dirt cheap, and may even be offered at low or no cost thru gov't programs
.  Where I am, it is not common, and very expensive, as it must be special ordered, and comes in lots of 50.
 
It is an experimental device that will make my mind that most powerful force on earth! More powerful than this tiny ad!
poor man's poll: would you support a kickstarter for a SKIP book?
https://permies.com/t/136637/poor-man-poll-support-kickstarter
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic