A common health issue in chicks is pasted vent, most often referred to as pasty butt. You’ll know it when you see it: soft poop sticks to the vent, then hardens, causing a blockage like a plug and can be a life-threatening condition.
Most birds with pasty butt will grow out of it in 7 – 10 days if treated early. Don’t confuse pasting in chicks with vent gleet in adult birds.
Pasting can be caused by several factors, often related to stress:
- The most likely cause is due to poorly digestible feed making it become thicker, more viscous and stickier in the intestine. A chick’s digestive enzymes don’t always break down feed. As they get a bit older (i.e. 10-14 days) they produce more enzymes, and both the chick and their vent are getting larger making it easier to poop.
- Stress and cold during shipping or transport.
- Brooder temperatures that the too hot.
- Coccidiosis or parasites that cause diarrhea that stick to the vent.
I hatch chicks with broody hens, have rarely used an incubator and never bought shipped chicks so have very little first-hand experience. Pasty butt is exacerbated by stress so it’s common that shipped and feed store chicks have it.
Whether you buy or hatch your own chicks examine them all and monitor for any signs of pasting. They can be fine one day and in serious trouble the next, if pasting goes unnoticed.
- Examine the vent: Be sure you are looking at the vent and not the navel, which is closer to the belly.
- Clean the vent: Very carefully hold the chick’s hind end under running warm (not hot) water or use a warm, wet wash cloth to soften the poop. Do not pick it until it is totally pliable or you can tear the skin and feathers. You can use mineral oil to soften it as well.
- Dry the chick: Once the chick is totally cleaned, use a tissue to remove excess water. Depending on the ambient temperature you can use a hair dryer on low heat, held at least 8 inches from the chick, to finish drying the feathers.
- Apply a dab of Vaseline on the vent to protect the affected area from chaffing and to prevent fresh poop from sticking.
- Once the chick is dry, return the chick to the brooder or hen.
Try to minimize how wet you get the chick and how long it’s out of the brooder or away from its mother. Keeping chicks warm is important because they are not able to regulate their body temperature and are at risk of getting chilled when wet – a factor in causing pasting in the first place.
- If you’re raising chicks in a brooder ensure that it is maintained at the right temperature. If several chicks are pasting, check that the temperature is not too hot or cold.
- Heat plates are preferable to heat lamps.
- Pasting is less likely to occur when the chicks’ first drink is the temperature of the brooder (35ºc/95ºf) and the chicks are drinking well before they start eating.
- Don’t give them electrolytes for the first week. Too much sugar added to their first water as an energy booster can contribute to pasting.
- You can give them probiotics in their water.
- Minimize stress. Monitor for bullying.
- Remove any sick or weak birds (e.g. spraddle leg, curled toes, slipped tendon) and treat separately.
- Provide fresh, clean water and feed chick starter.
- Keep litter clean and dry to prevent pathogenic bacteria.
- Provide medicated feed to prevent coccidiosis. If you do observe any symptoms of coccidiosis (e.g. bloody poop) treat with amprolium.
- Practice good biosecurity. Pasting is not contagious condition, but the underlying cause could be (e.g. coccidiosis).
- Wash your hands after handling your birds.