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What is Pasty Butt: Prevention and Treatment for Baby Chicks

Pasty butt is a fairly common, potentially life-threatening condition that can occur in baby chicks. 

Fortunately it's easy to detect, treat and even prevent, but since it's so common, it is something that every backyard chicken keeper needs to be aware of.

So What is Pasty Butt?

Pasty butt (pasty vent or pasting up) occurs when the chick's soft droppings stick to the fine down around their vent and then harden. As a result, the dried up feces blocks the chick's vent creating a plug so they can't excrete their poop. It can be potentially fatal if the blockage isn't cleared fairly quickly. 

It's more common in chicks that are shipped through the mail than in those you hatch yourself under a hen or in a incubator or buy from a local farm, but it's good practice to monitor all your chicks for the first few days. Pasty butt generally occurs in chicks less than a week old.

Stress, temperature fluctuations or being chilled are the most common causes of pasty butt, so any time you order chicks through the mail or pick them out at a feed store (remember most feed store chicks were also shipped), be sure to check their vent to be sure it's clear of any feces. 

Continue to check your new chicks for the first couple of days just to be sure they aren't affected.

How Should it Be Treated?

Treating pasty butt is simple, but oh-so-critical to the chick's well-being:

Step 1.  Using a q-tip moistened with warm water or your fingers, gently clean away any stuck on or dried on poop. Try not to pull out the chick's fluff. 

In severe cases, you can (very carefully) snip away the dirty fluff and poop with a small pair of sharp scissors.

Step 2.  Using a clean q-tip dipped in cooking oil (you can use vegetable, olive or whatever cooking oil you have on hand), gently swab around the chick's vent. 

This should help prevent the poop from sticking and clogging up the vent again.

Step 3.  Continue swabbing and checking the vent for a few days and treating as necessary. The pasty butt should clear up after 3-4 days. 

Step 4.  Add some raw oats or ground cornmeal to your chicks' feed. Both are thought to help both prevent and treat pasty butt.  

Just a sprinkle in the feed should do it, but for severe cases, you can add up to half and half feed to oats and/or cornmeal. 

Step 5. Add some probiotic powder to the feed to help balance gut bacteria and prevent diarrhea. A 2% probiotic/feed ratio is recommended.

Step 6.  Add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar per quart of water to help prevent pasty butt and offer that to your chicks when you first bring them home.

How Can I Prevent Pasty Butt From Occurring?

Pasty butt is most common in shipped chicks, so if possible purchase chicks locally or hatch your own. It can also be caused by temperature fluctuations, so keep your brooder temperature constant and avoid taking the chicks out from under the heat lamp for extended periods of time.

Pasty butt can also be caused by giving chicks cold water, so their water should always be room temperature (or rather brooder temperature: you should always set up the chick brooder the day before you add the chicks so the water is allowed to slowly come up to the brooder temperature and you can test the heat lamp).  

Offering newly hatched chicks water alone for several hours after you put them in the brooder before offering feed can also help prevent pasty butt.

Pasty butt can also be caused by stress,  so don't let children or household pets harass or upset your chicks. 

Diarrhea can lead to a buildup of poop around the vent, so be sure to keep your brooder bedding dry and change it out frequently to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and pathogens in the bedding.

With a bit of vigilance and proper treatment, your brand new Littles should have nice puffy, fluffy butts in no time!

Related Products:
(affiliate links)

Swisspers Cotton Swabs | Bragg Organic Olive Oil | ORE Pet Urban Country Bowl | Bob's Red Mill Organic Rolled Oats | Bob's Red Mill Organic Cornmeal | Poultry Probiotics | Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar

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