Thursday, February 7, 2013

Should I Vaccinate My Chickens / Poultry for Marek's Disease?

Natural Chicken Keeping Question of the Day:

Hey there!
First off a THANK YOU for this wonderful website. I can't tell you how much I've learned from you guys!

I have a question that is driving me insane, because I can't get any definitive or good answers about, that I was hoping you could help me out with:
My husband and I currently don't have any chickens, as we are in the process of moving to a bigger ranch here in Texas. We will be raising a small herd of grass-fed cattle, and free-range chickens, organic vegetables, etc. and plan to do everything as holistically, organic, and naturally as we can. The immediate and main reason is for us to have dependable, Non-GMO, chemical free food for our health, but who knows; a couple years down the road we may try selling some grass-fed beef, pastured eggs, and poultry....

But the question I keep coming up against is whether or not to vaccinate our new chicks when we get them in a couple months for Marek's or any other diseases. I would really rather not, since as I said we want to go the natural route, but was wondering if you guys had any insight into pros and cons that may sway me one way.

Our flock will be about 8-10 birds for the first year, and eventually if we end up selling some pastured eggs or poultry, of course we would have more birds. If we do that, we will likely not go for an Organic certification, with such a small operation; even though the feed our chickens get will be Organic, Non-GMO, and we will be using Organic/Natural pastures, and farming practices. As I understand it, you can vaccinate chickens who will even be certified Organic, (this could be wrong, but the majority of what I've read says it is allowed) but I'm more concerned about any possible dangers or issues that vaccinating our flock could have on us since we will be consuming their eggs and meat. 

So far almost everything I've read, and people I've spoken to all say YES, ABSOLUTELY vaccinate for Marek's, but they can't tell me if there are any dangers from this, and as most of those people have been "non-organic" conventional raisers of chickens, and traditional vets.

So, just wondering if you may have any info that could help me out. I'm so confused and stressed about making the decision to vaccinate the chickens or not; that I'm starting to lose sleep! I would REALLY love to hear your thoughts on the matter, and see if you can help!
Thanks so much for everything you do-your hard work to help chicken owners, is SO very much appreciated!! :)
Cynthia, in Texas
Leigh Says:

First of all, thank you for your kind words about the Blog! I feel so lucky to have such wonderful sources of knowledge (Vicki, Tom, Karen, Chrissy, Jane, Sue… and that these super folks share their knowledge so freely with the rest of us! Without them, this blog would not be.

Now then…
I do not vaccinate my flock for the sole reason that I do not wish to add any extra chemicals, medications or “additives” to my birds. That said, if my flock ever did have an issue with Marek’s, the game would change out of necessity.

I would ask around and find out if any of the past owners of the new property ever kept poultry on the land. Marek’s can be present in the soil for years after infected birds have left.

Most folks never have a problem with it, but for the few that do, it can be an ugly disease!

Vicki Says:
There are dangers to Merek’s and any other inoculation you give your kids, poultry or cattle. It sounds to me you eventually need certification for Organic selling, so you will need an NPIP certification and that requires testing. With any type of inoculation you are in fact giving the disease to your birds so they can build a resistance. You would not be able to bring other birds on your property unless they too were inoculated or they would be exposed to the Merick’s your inoculated birds are sloughing off.
With inoculation you can rest easy that your whole flock will not be wiped out from this disease. I do not inoculate my birds, however, I reserve the right to choose to do so if I ever hear of any type of disease in the area and if I expand my area of showing.

Justine of Les Farm Says:
I personally wouldn’t. I don’t think it’s necessary.

Tom (Life With Chickens) Says:
I don't and won't vaccinate. My only thought is it depends on the Texas laws (and trade organization rules) concerning farms and the legal selling of birds. Not just craigslist sale. But it sounds like you may want to do this legit and if that is the case you need to do whatever Texas says you need to do.

(Note: While there is no Texas law stating small, privately-owned flocks of poultry must be vaccinated for Marek’s, we encourage folks to comply with the rules governing other state or local certifications, when seeking such certifications.)

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