I suppose it's inevitable to expect casualties amongst your livestock, but heartbreaking nonetheless.
We awoke this morning to find one of our Buttercup chicks collapsed in the coop. She was chilled, couldn't stand or move her feet and legs. We brought her inside, cocooned her in toweling and on top of a heating mat on my lap to bring up her temperature, while we tried to figure out what was wrong.
We believe she had Marek's disease, a virus specific to chickens. There a few different forms of the disease, and she was presenting with classic Marek's, with leg paralysis. We kept her separated from the others, and tried to get her to eat, or at least drink. However, when the afternoon rolled around with no change and she still wasn't drinking water, even when we dipped her beak into it, we came to the hard decision to put her down. Huge thanks to my husband who wanted to spare me the agony of that process, and took care of everything.
There's no cure for Marek's. The terrible thing is that they can be vaccinated at birth against the disease, but the chicks I purchased from a feed store in Grass Valley were not vaccinated, so it's possible that the other three chicks from that location may also sicken, and have to be killed in turn. I'm waiting on information to see if I can still vaccinate the others, though if they are already incubating the disease vaccination will be pointless.
On the upside, my two Wyandotte chicks were purchased at a feed store in Auburn, where they request all of the chicks to be vaccinated as a matter of course. Also, a friend with poultry stated that he's rarely had more than one bird die at a time from Marek's or other diseases, so it's possible that the others will be ok.