How to Prevent Pasty Butt in Baby Chicks

 

20160919_121349Almost everyone has had a chick which has had a piece of poo sticking to its behind.   We try to remove it and end up making an even bigger mess by smearing  the poo around the poor chick’s backside. It ends up drying hard like cement or worse capping the vent causing a small explosion of backed up poo when finally removed.  There must be a way to prevent all of this from happening again.

Pasty Butt or “pasting up”, is a condition in which the little chick’s poo gets stuck to the vent (small slit on chick’s back end) and “stops up” the chick like a cork.  The chick can’t eliminate its poo and the poo gets backed up into the body of the chick.  This can kill the chick fairly quickly if not removed.

If I see that a chick is plugged up, I will carefully remove the piece of poo with my fingernail. I gently tug, being careful not to hurt the chick. This works best when the poo is dried. Some feather down may come off with the poo using this method.  Sometime there is too much poo and it is too wet to remove it with your fingernail.  I will then use a Q-tip and warm water to soften the poo until it comes off.  The disadvantage with this method is that now the chick has a wet behind and can quickly become chilled.  I gently dry it off with a towel or paper towel and place it back under the heat lamp to finish drying.

Pasty Butt is common in chicks sent in the mail or in crowded feed store bins.  It tends not to happen in chicks who are hatched and raised by a broody hen.  Their temperature is regulated by her feathers and she will take care of making sure that their behinds are clean.

When you’ve hatched out chicks in an incubator or have had chicks arrive in the mail, you must take the place of the mother hen and clean the chicks yourself.  The new baby chicks will not be able to clean themselves until they are at least a week old. They are not capable of reaching around to that spot to clean it properly.  This will be your job as surrogate mother hen.  You will need to check your chicks regularly for the first week of life.  After the first week is finished pasty butt  is less common and they are better able to keep themselves clean.  Their bodies have also become better regulators of heat and their digestive system is better able to handle new food.

When checking your chicks, don’t confuse the vent with the belly button.  The vent is immediately below the tail feathers.  It is a thin line that opens and closes.  This opening is also through which the eggs will come out of the hen’s body when she starts to lay.  The belly button is between the vent and the chick’s legs.  There may, perhaps, be a piece of the umbilical cord still there.  Don’t pull on it as sometimes intestines can still be attached to it and you can end up pulling out the baby chicks bowels.  The cord will drop off itself in a day or two.

You may wonder what causes pasty butt in the first place and why do only some chicks suffer from it.  Silkies in particular seem to get it quite a bit.  This may have something to do with their extra fluffy down.  The poo seems to stick to it quite easily.  It may help to put a dab of vaseline jelly with a Q-tip right below the vent line.  The poo is then unable to stick to the down.

Temperature regulation has a lot to do with whether your chick will develop pasty butt.  Too hot or too cold conditions will bring on an outbreak.  Chicks that are sent in the mail often are left in cold mail rooms where they may become chilled.  If mailed out in the summer they may also suffer from too warm of conditions.

250 Watt  Heat lamp bulbs can often put too much heat into your small brooder.  Try a smaller watt bulb or use a different heating source.  I like  the Ecoglow or the Sweeter Heater.  They both mimic a mother hen by creating a warm cave where the chick can feel protected.  I have not found them to be too warm.  Radiant heat does not heat the air but does heat the chick and bedding.  Watch your bird’s behavior.  They will let you know if they are too hot or too cold.  Chicks that are too cold will huddle up together and make loud cheeping sounds.  Chicks that are too warm will spread out to the corners of your brooder to try and get away from the heat source.  For the first week the brooder should be 90-95 degrees.  For more information check out How to choose a Heat Source for your Brooder.

Placing the chick in stressful situations will also bring on pasty butt.   Overcrowding in the brooder can bring on stress for baby chicks.  Too many chicks can trample each other in their frenzy to find the best spot in the brooder, best place to get food or best place at the waterer.  Stronger chicks will walk over weaker ones.  Smaller chicks can get squished into corners.  Keep your numbers in the brooder manageable.  Newborn chicks need about six square inches of space each.  They also need space in which to get away from the heat source if they need to.  More information about brooder size is at Choosing the Perfect Brooder.

Other things that can cause stress are loud noises and frequent handling by over eager children.  The first week of life should be a time of calmness with no major transitions.  They are very cute to look at but when you sweep your hands into their brooder to scoop them up all they are thinking about are flying predators.  They instinctively know that they should fear things that come from above.  Try moving the brooder off the floor and onto a table where your presence is not so threatening.  Keep the brooder in a quiet area.  Limit your handling of the chicks during that first week.  There will be plenty of time later to cuddle with your chick.  Chickens do not imprint like some other birds. There is not need to try and tame them that first week.

Baby chick’s first food should be “Chick Starter” crumbles.  The size of the crumbles can vary.  For the first week of life I recommend grinding the chick starter up so that it resembles powder. I use a coffee grinder. I think that this is easier to digest than some of the large crumbles that are in some packages.  Pasty Butt poo is sometimes very loose and runny.  Oatmeal can firm it up. I take old fashioned oatmeal and grind that up in a coffee grinder and then add it to the ground up chick starter.  I make a batch that is 1/4 oatmeal and 3/4 chick starter.  They seem to really like it and tend to eat more food with the oatmeal in it. I will also sprinkle some chick grit (sand) on top of it, kind of like just adding a sprinkling of salt to something.  This will also help to firm their poo up as well.  Grit can also be offered in a separate dish.

Treats should be given very sparingly that first week.  I wouldn’t give them any treats beyond ground up oatmeal, hard boiled egg yolk, or perhaps some plain yogurt.  Pasty butt is often a result of the chick switching from nutrients found in their egg to the new food out in the world.  Stick with the chick starter for now.  There is plenty of time for treats after they are a week old and their digestive systems can better handle it.

I do add some things to their water.  Probiotics and vitamins can give them a good start.  Rooster Booster has both vitamins and probiotics .  It can be added to water or sprinkled on feed. Probios is also a choice for adding active cultures to your chick’s gut. Gro – 2 – Max is a product that is organic and provides probiotics for your water .I also add a splash of apple cider vinegar to their water for gut health.

Be on the lookout for listless behavior.  I notice that my chicks move and walk differently when they have pasty butt.  They do not feel well when they are plugged up.  Remember that temperature, stress and food each play a role in your chick’s health.

For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at VJPPoultry.com .  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria J. Peterson

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Respiratory Health in the Silkie Chicken Flock

20180119_124720-1     During this cold snap you may hear some strange sounds coming from your flock.  All of a sudden you may hear a high pitched squeak which begins to sound like a sneeze. That is a red flag that one of your birds may becoming down with some kind of respiratory issue.  Upon closer examination you may see that your bird has a runny nose or watery eyes.  This is the time to take action and isolate that bird from the rest of the flock.

Respiratory issues in poultry can be either a minor problem or a major problem depending on the severity of it.  Most of the time it can be easily dealt with. However, there are some deadly respiratory diseases that can effect your entire flock and medicine will need to be given.

One cause of sneezing and cold- like symptoms in poultry can be all of the dust that can collect in a coop.  Chickens can cough, splutter and get watery eyes if they breath too much dust in. Dust can come from the pine shaving you use as bedding or just from the dander on the birds themselves. You may want to switch to a dust free bedding or use sand or straw.  Use an air hose to blow out the dust in the coop periodically. Install fans to blow air out or the coop so that dust can’t collect.  Let your birds free range when they can or be out in their runs all year.

When cleaning the coop and changing bedding it would be a good idea for you, too, to wear some kind of face or mask protection.  Dust, dirt and chicken feces particles and not good for your lungs. People that work in the poultry industry routinely wear masks when cleaning.

Any kind of stress can also cause your chicken to start to display respiratory distress.  Extreme temperatures , being transported and crowded conditions all add to a lowering of the immune system and coughing and sneezing can result.  Make sure that your coop is not too crowded and that the coop is well ventilated.  You need fresh air freely flowing through the coop.

The introduction of a new bird to the flock can cause stress as a new pecking order needs to be established.  Chickens love routine and anything that is new or different can stress them out.  That new bird could also be a carrier and be bringing in new viruses.  Quarantine is very important when adding new birds. A minimum of three weeks is needed to protect the rest of your flock from incoming diseases.  Buy chickens from trustworthy sources who you know have healthy birds.

Check your birds daily for signs of respiratory illness. Symptoms include sneezing or sniffling, runny nose or mucus coming out of the nose, watery eyes or swollen sinuses.  Isolate the bird if you see these symptoms in a crate and if possible keep it where you can observe it.  Your bird is contagious.  Change the bedding in the coop to try and keep germs from spreading to the rest of your flock.  Treat with some Vetrx around the nostrils or even in the water.  Use some Terramycin or Vetericyn in the eyes if they are watery or are closing shut.

You can bolster your bird’s immune system by giving them probiotics and plain yogurt. Chopped garlic added to the water is good for the immune system.  So is adding dill, oregano and thyme to the feed. I always add apple cider vinegar to my chicken’s water water to help with digestion and to improve health.  Vitamins and electrolytes also work well for overall health.

There are some serious respiratory diseases:

 

Causes of Respiratory Illness in Adult Chickens
Disease Occurrence in Backyard Flocks Distinctive Signs of Illness Average Mortality Rate
Mycoplasmosis Common Foamy eye discharge, more common in winter, roosters usually
show more severe signs
Usually none
Infectious coryza Common Swollen face or wattles, gunky eyes, foul odor, more common
summer and fall
5–20 percent
Infectious bronchitis Common Decreased egg production Usually none
Newcastle disease Mild strains are common. Highly deadly strains are absent from
chickens in the United States.
May also cause diarrhea, staggering, paralysis, sudden
death
5–99 percent
Fowl cholera (chronic form) Not so common Swollen face, gunky eyes, rattling or difficulty breathing,
more common in late summer
0–20 percent
Infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT) Not so common Gasping, coughing up bloody mucous, dried blood around nostrils
and lower beak
10–20 percent
Avian influenza Rare (Deadly strains are absent from chickens in the United
States)
Droopy birds, rattling breathing sounds, diarrhea, sudden
death
5–99 percent

*taken from Chicken Health For Dummies

If you feel that your chickens have one of these diseases, you should probably call a vet.  They will give you antibiotic for their water or antibiotics given with injections.

The problem with these more serious diseases is that the symptoms are the same as lesser illnesses.  Unless you do a blood test you will never know for sure what you have.  Treatment is the same for any respiratory disease.  Complete recovery may take 2-4 weeks.  Your bird may recover but become a long term carrier of the infection.  A healthy looking hen could be contagious to others because she carries the disease.

Vibatra is an all natural antibiotic alternative.  Homeopathic sprays are another natural alternative to antibiotics.

Amoxfin is an antibiotic used for tropical fish that you can get over the internet and put in their water.  Tylan is an antibiotic injection that you can find at places that sell chicken supplies.

It is important to know whether your bird is contagious if you are planning on selling birds or if you take them to shows.

Silkies have a hard time seeing with their large crests and muffs.  Many times I will see eye issues because feathers had lodged themselves into their eyes and are acting as a irritant.  Keep their crests and muffs trimmed if this is an issue.

Some people think that silkies need more vitamins than other breeds of chickens. You may want to feed them a better quality feed or give them vitamins in their water to help their immune system. Check out “When Something Is Wrong With My Silkie”

For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at VJPPoultry.com .  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria J. Peterson

 

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