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Wednesday, February 28 2018

The rain, ice, and snow last week stressed my little Marek's infected flock of Blue-Laced Red Wyandottes.  I can already see the twisted fingers of disease reaching for them. Yesterday I had to shoot my rooster. By evening I had to help a hen climb into the coop. One by one the disease will take them. As I was kicking rocks I gave it some thought. If they're gonna die anyway, what the hell, let 'em live a little. So I started a chicken bucket list.

They have a rather spacious L-shaped chicken yard which contains a little aluminum quonset hut for daytime shelter and a small fenced coop with a ladder leading up to their raised coop. This is more space than many chickens see their entire lives. But there's a whole world on the other side of the bars. If you're gonna die anyway, you may as well experience it. There is little point in trying to keep them quarantined because their feathers and dander have already blown all over the property. My adult chickens were vaccinated as chicks. Thus far they show no signs of having contracted the disease.

So today I opened the gate.

The youngsters were a bit hesitant at first but soon walked out to peck and scratch along the opposite side of their fence. Untouched grass. Uncharted territory. Even as I watched them enjoy themselves, I saw the signs. This little hen with the copper head will be next. I had to help her into the coop last night.

Today she walks and then plops down to rest. Her legs can't hold her up for long. But she's having a good time, so who am I to say she can't go with the others.

This dark blue may be after her. I noticed her crouching a bit more than before. After losing four birds already, I'm beginning to see the early warning signs. It starts with a weakness in the legs and then progresses.

But for today, everyone got an outing. They scratched and ate grass until they were ready to wander back to their hut. I shut the gate and promised them another outing tomorrow. Perhaps they can become free-range chickens before they die. We can all live our lives waiting to die, or we can live our lives celebrating life. It's your choice.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 02:25 pm   |  Permalink   |  3 Comments  |  Email
Comments:
Hello, I was very interested to read your article about the marek's disease. I have had chickens for a lot of years, and have never vaccinated for it, nor had it done. We are very isolated. It was never a problem. I may have to reconsider whether or not I should have the next batch of mail order chicks vaccinated. It sounds like a real bummer. Question.. Will that linger on the property? So, if you hatch out some chicks will they be in danger? Will you have to vaccinate them yourself?
Posted by Kathy on 03/04/2018 - 09:51 AM
Yes, it will linger on the property. Some sources say five months, some say longer. We are very remote also and never had a problem until I bought these youngsters who were already infected. Now I will have to incubate eggs and vaccinate day old chicks or buy the chicks already vaccinated.
Posted by Forensicfarmgirl on 03/04/2018 - 04:10 PM
That sounds so heartbreaking and frustrating to watch. I really hope that chicken breeder fully understood what she has done, and never lets it happen again. A chicken anti-vaxxer. Geez... These chickens are obviously well-loved and lucky, you do great work forensicfarmgirl, especially when it's hard.
Posted by Jess on 03/10/2018 - 12:49 AM

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Red Feather Ranch, Failte Gate Farm
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