Hatchery Chicks and Pasty Butt

This morning we stopped into our local farm store to get a few things. Naturally, we look at chicks/ducklings while we’re there—though it’s pointless for us to purchase any since we’re already running rampant with chicks—whew! However, this is the first year I’ve seen over half of the chicks in one bin have pasty butt. Wow, like, severely. There was one poor little chick sitting in the corner, with that final “head tilt and shake” that they get when they are on their last leg.

When purchasing chicks from feed stores, make sure you ask if you can choose the chicks you purchase, rather than them just picking out random chicks for you. I asked multiple times last year, and I always got the reply “we aren’t supposed to, but I can’t blame you”. My husband would chuckle and thank them profusely, right after he said “she’s not buying them if she can’t look them over, that’s just her!” If chicks have pasty butt, are lethargic, or seem overall stressed out….don’t choose them. Chicks with pasty butt will definitely need to be treated. But if they have been left without treatment too long, you may very well lose them (quickly).

Pasty butt comes from the chick being overly stressed or when it is lacking nutrition. Most hatcheries do well and ship quickly so that the chicks aren’t sitting in a box very long. But some, not so much.

Treatment for pasty butt is very simple, but you have to keep a close eye on them for the first few days. Simply soak their little bottoms in warm water (they love this, believe it or not!). Once the feces is softened, you can loosen it off of their bottoms with a q-tip or rag. Many times, if they have been bound up for over 24 hrs, there will be an extremely large amount of feces that will be expelled, and the chick will almost show a sense of relief. Once cleaned up, pat dry and place back in the brooder with probiotics in their water (such as Save-a-Chick, which you can get at TSC). We actually like to blow dry our chicks if we ever have pasty butt and need a good cleaning, and they love that too! Homestead kid always gets a kick out of it too.

This is one of the reasons I’ve realized how important it is to support your local breeders. I’m all for hatchery birds, do not read into that too much. We do enjoy them! But there are SO MANY local breeders with chicks right now, or hatch to order. And lots more choices, too! not to mention, the quality is far better than hatchery.

Pasty butt can happen in chicks that you hatch as well. Though, I have never had a case in chicks that we’ve hatched — only chicks that we’ve bought.

Moral of the story? Make sure your chicks are warm, healthy, and not stressed…and you’ll do fine.

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