Pasty Butt: How to Identify It, Treat It, and Prevent Pasty Butt
This article is all about pasty butt in chicks, how to hopefully prevent it, treat it if it happens, and the signs to look for when you first bring home your baby chicks.
We got our first chicks around seven years ago, and I still remember the day I went to check on them. There was a dead baby in the chick pen! I was so sad, and I didn’t know what had happened. When I picked her up, it appeared that there was a hard chunk of (is that poop?) on her bottom.
These days, I know exactly what happened. She was a victim of Pasty Butt, and I had failed at catching it in time. Well, I didn’t know about it, so it was a lesson I learned the hard way.
What is Pasty Butt? How to Identify It, Treat It, and Prevent It
Pasty Butt is a condition that can affect very young chicks. If you raise chickens, you may never have to deal with it, but you should be aware of what it is and what to do about it if it happens because pasty butt is quite common.
Also known as "pasting up," Pasty Butt happens when the vent (the area right under the tail feathers---or down, in the case of chicks) gets clogged with dried feces.
Usually the mother hen will keep her chicks' vents cleaned up and healthy, but if you are raising the chicks, then YOU are the mom! :-) It's a great job, and you will have to be the one to do the checking and cleaning as necessary.
The problem with the vent getting clogged is that the chick can't poop. The toxins will very quickly poison the chick, and it will die---usually quickly. That's it! Pasty Butt is a vent clogged with dried feces.
The first few days after you bring your new chicks home is a critical time in their lives. You need to be sure to check on them several times a day and ALWAYS be on the look out for pasty butt.
If you are a new owner to your chicks, here’s an article about how to take care of your chicks when you bring them home for the first time.
Read on to find out how to take care of it and what to look for exactly.
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How to Clear Up Pasty Butt
It's important to know how to clear up Pasty Butt without hurting the chick. The chick is covered with down that keeps it warm, and you don't want to accidentally pull any of this out. Plus--it will hurt the chick!
Being gentle and patient is the key in helping your chick recover from a case of pasty butt.
Here's how to go about unclogging the dried fecal matter from the chick's vent:
Step 1: Wash your hands really well. You don't want bacteria entering your chick from your hands and possibly causing an infection. You can wear gloves if you want---I choose not to. It's easier for me to be sure all the poo is gone if I use bare hands. I know that's gross, but a Mom's got to do what a Mom's got to do, right?
Step 2: Run some lukewarm to barely warm (definitely not hot) water.
Step 3: Soften the hard fecal matter. Using your wet fingers, start by gently moistening the hardened fecal lump, removing it very carefully. The moister it is, the more easily it will dissolve and come off the chick's vent.
Be sure not to get the chick wet. The only area you want to work on with water is the vent area.
NOTE: The vent is the hole on the rear of the chick that serves as the output for eggs and waste.
Step 4: Unclog the vent. I used a moist, warm washcloth to dab gently at the remainder of the poo until the vent is completely unclogged.
Amazingly, this little lady perked up immediately after being able to defecate. We caught it pretty early, and that's a lucky thing. Another hour or so, and I don't think she would have made it!
How to Prevent Pasty Butt
Honestly, sometimes there's nothing you can do to prevent Pasty Butt. But there are some things you need to be doing to provide the best care for your baby chicks.
Pasty Butt may be caused by excessive stress on the chick. This stress is caused by the shipping process, being transported yet again to a new home, and possibly sub-optimal conditions. Some chicks are also just weaker than others, and are not able to deal with this stress.
Chicks cannot care for themselves. The mother hen keeps her babies clean and makes sure they have the right food. You, as the chick's new Mom, must do these things! Here are some things to be sure to do when taking care of very young chicks:
Make sure fresh clean water is always available near the starter feed. If the chick doesn't drink enough water, just like us, it may be more likely to encounter issues with hardened fecal matter. A good waterer has a container with a moat for drinking.
Chicks need a temperature in the brooder around 90 to 95 degrees. It doesn't have to be perfect, but they need to be able to manage how warm or cold they are. If you see your chicks huddled up, they are too cold.
If you see them trying to stay away from the heat source, they are too hot. This causes undue stress on them, too. Use a heat lamp that has a wire barrier to help prevent fires.
3) Room to Move:
Newborn chicks up to a week old need about six square inches of space each at least. As they grow and get bigger, they will continue to need more room. They also need to have enough space to move toward or away from the heat source so they don’t get too hot or cold.
Be sure to feed medicated chick starter for the first weeks. This is especially formulated to enhance their immune systems and keep them healthy. Starter feed is finely grained, and the chicks can digest it without additional grit.
It's tempting to feed them treats like lettuce or grain, but you need to refrain for a few weeks until their digestive systems are more mature. I don't recommend feeding them anything but starter feed (or grower feed, once you finish a bag of starter for a couple of weeks) until they have feathered out.
At this point, their digestive systems will surely be able to handle different types of foods. I may be a little conservative, here, but I just think it's better to be safe than sorry!
5) Be on the Look Out!
I can’t stress this enough! Pasty Butt can kill a chick quickly—-within just hours.
If you have done all of the above steps, then the final step is to just check in with your chicks often! Be on the look out for listless behavior, half-shut eyes, and little movement.
Chicks with pasty butt don't feel well, and they will show it! Catch it early on, and your chick will most likely be just fine!
Final Reflections on Pasty Butt
It’s a sad, sad thing to purchase your new chicks, have such hope and expectation in your heart for the eggs that will eventually come your way…..and your chick dies. Often without a sign and quickly!
After my first encounter with pasty butt, I am now vigilant about checking on my new chicks. I have seen how fast they can pass away just like that.
This is a condition that if caught in time, can be reversed if the chick is not poisoned to a great extent. It’s worthwhile to check on those babies often, just like you would your very own child….at least for the first week or so.
Have you ever encountered pasty butt in your chicks? Leave comments in the comments section with your questions, comments and any advice I missed here.
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Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or a veterinarian. The advice given in this post or any other on this website is just that: personal opinion and advice--meant only for informational purposes. Always do your due diligence in treating your family or pet on your own, and see a medical professional for health issues.