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How to Prevent and Treat Pasty Butt in Baby Chicks

Pasty butt, also known as "pasted or pasty vent" occurs when the vent of a chick gets clogged with dried feces. If it's not treated, the condition can be fatal.

Pasty butt, also called "pasting up" or "pasted vent" is a fairly common, but potentially life-threatening, condition that can occur when the vent of a baby chick gets clogged with dried feces. 

If not treated quickly, it can be fatal because the baby chick is unable to eliminate its poop and it will quickly get stopped up and die. 

How to Prevent and Treat Pasty Butt in Baby Chicks

Fortunately it's easy to detect, treat and even prevent, but since it's so common, it is something that you should be aware of if you're just starting out with your baby chicks and that every backyard chicken keeper needs to be aware of.

What is Pasty Butt?

Pasty butt is the condition in which a chick's soft droppings stuck to the fine down around their vent and then harden and get stuck in the opening of the baby chick’s vent. 

The feces dries up and literally stops up the chick so it can’t poop. The dried-up feces acts like a cork, creating a plug so they can't excrete their feces. 

Sadly, it can kill the chick fairly quickly if it's not treated quickly, so knowing how to spot - and treat - pasty butt is a critical part of caring for baby chicks. 

How Do I Check for Pasty Butt?

Checking for pasty butt is simple, but very important whether you hatch chicks or purchase day old chicks, although it tends to afflict chicks that are shipped most often.

To check a chick for pasty butt, just flip the chick over and check the area right under its tail. That's the vent. If you see brown dried droppings, then that chick has pasty butt.

Be sure to check each chick at least a few times a day for the first few days.

What Causes Pasty Butt?

Pasty butt is generally caused by stress, being chilled or uneven temperature changes. Chicks that hatch under a mother hen rarely suffer from pasty butt. Pasty butt affects mainly:

  • chicks that are hatched in an incubator 
  • chicks that are shipped through the mail 

But it’s good to get into the habit of checking all your baby chicks for pasty butt religiously for the first few days of their life. 

And remember that chicks you pick out at the feed store were most likely shipped as well, so it's just a good habit to check all your chicks for the first few days. After that, they should be fine. 

It's unlikely that they will get it after the first several days. Pasty butt generally occurs in chicks less than a week old.

How Do I Treat Pasty Butt?

Fortunately, pasty butt is very easy to treat. What you need:
  • Q-tip or cotton swab
  • Small pair of scissors

Moisten a q-tip with some warm water, then gently swap the area to wipe away and remove the dried feces. Once the vent is cleared, use a clean Q-tip or cotton swap to dab a bit of oil around the vent area to prevent further clogging. 

For stubborn clumps, you can carefully snip away some of the down around the vent with the scissors, but be careful not to inadvertently cut the chick's skin.  And don't pull or yank the down out. You don't want to hurt the chick.

Continue to check and clean any more stuck-on feces and monitor the afflicted chick for the next few days to be sure the condition doesn't recur, and swab with a moistened Q-tip again if it does. The condition should clear up in 3-4 days.

Since chicks are not able to regulate their body temperature and can quickly get chilled and die if they get wet, you don’t want to actually bathe the chick. Just wet right around the vent area.

How Can I Prevent Pasty Butt in the Future?

Since pasty butt is most common in shipped chicks, 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.

If you are using an incubator, be sure to use a good quality incubator and monitor that you're keeping the temperature constant. Or even better, try hatching chicks under a mother hen!

Once your chicks move to the brooder, keep the brooder temperature constant using a heat lamp or EcoGlow and don't take the chicks out of the brooder for long periods of time.

Chicks need access to fresh, clean water 24/7 the first few weeks, but pasty butt can also be caused by giving chicks cold water. So their water should always be room temperature.

Or rather brooder temperature. When you are expecting chicks, 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.

There are several other things you can do to prevent pasty butt:

  • add a bit of ground raw oats or cornmeal to the chick feed, just a sprinkle on top should do it
  • add probiotic powder to the feed to balance gut bacteria and help prevent diarrhea
  • add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar per quart of water and offer that to your chicks when you first bring them home along with plain water

Related Products:
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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 | Fresh Eggs Daily Herbal Salve

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