Pasty Butt: How to Identify It, Treat It, and Prevent Pasty Butt
Pasty Butt is a condition that may 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. 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.
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!
Here's how to go about unclogging the dried fecal matter from the chick's vent:
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?
2) Run some lukewarm to barely warm (definitely not hot) water.
3) 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.
4) I used a moist, warm washcloth to dab 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. It 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 also 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 think about 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.
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!
If you have done all of the above, 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!
Have you ever encountered pasty butt in your chicks?
Hugs & Self-Reliance!
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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.
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