Chicks suffering from neurological problems
17:58 25 April 2014
Q - Over the past six months my Silkies have had sporadic cases of neurological problems in some of the six to eight week old chicks. I have a new brooder unit but I am having problems with significant numbers of two-week-old chicks dying. What am I doing wrong? Someone said they should be vaccinated but I haven’t done this.
A - VR writes: Silkies, in particular, (plus Sebrights) are very susceptible to Marek’s disease, which is what you should be vaccinating against, their welfare is being affected by this disease. Marek’s is a herpes virus which mainly affects nerves, hence the neurological signs you have seen, and usually localises in the leg nerves causing severe lameness and subsequent lack of balance, but can cause tumours in multiple internal organs as well.
The virus is not transmitted through the egg, but is quickly picked up by the chicks through inhalation of feather dust. Therefore, it is the chicks which need the vaccine and, once given, it is for life and is about 97 per cent effective. Any subsequent hatches will also need to be vaccinated. The Marek’s vaccine can be purchased in small amounts, unlike most of the other vaccines which have been developed by the poultry industry.
Adults should be culled if they show signs of the disease since it is not possible to vaccinate them successfully and it may be that you will then land up with few or no adults. You also need to make sure that a breeder ration is fed to the adults six weeks before eggs are needed for hatching to ensure strong chicks.