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Why Baby Chickens Get Pasty Butt and What to Do About It

Why Baby Chickens Get Pasty Butt and What to Do About It

Pasty Butt — also known as pasting, paste up, or sticky bottom — is a common condition in newly hatched chicks. It occurs when soft droppings stick to a chick’s vent, then harden and seal the vent shut. If the condition is not corrected, the affected chick may die.

Although pasting may be caused by disease — typically in chicks older than one week — it is more likely to be caused by chilling, overheating, or improper feeding of newly hatched chicks. Shipped chicks that got chilled in transit may paste, as may dehydrated chicks that are given too-cold water as their first drink. Pasting is less likely to occur when the chicks’ first drink is no less than brooding temperature (95 to 100ºF) and the chicks are drinking well before they start eating.

Adding electrolytes to the drinking water can give shipped chicks an immunity boost, but can also cause pasty butt if the chicks are dehydrated and drink more than usual, therefore getting an excessive dose of electrolytes. Too much sugar added to the chicks’ first water as an energy booster can also cause pasting. Cackle Hatchery’s Jeff Smith suggests adding 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to each quart of the chicks’ drinking water during the first week to reduce the possibility of pasting.

A chick with a sticky bottom must be cleaned up before the droppings harden and plug up the works. Begin by running a gentle stream of warm tap water over the chick’s bottom. Then take your time picking off the mess with your fingers, being super careful not to rip out any down and tear the chick’s tender skin. Depending on how thick and hardened the poop is, you may have to pick off a little at a time, then apply more warm water.

When all the droppings have been cleared away, dry the chick’s bottom by gently dabbing it with a paper towel. After the chick is fully dry, apply a little Vaseline to the vent to protect the affected area from chaffing and to prevent fresh poop from sticking.

If pasting persists, it could be caused by the type of feed the chicks are eating. Newly-hatched chicks should be fed only starter ration designed for this purpose. Be aware, however, that some types of feedstuffs, particularly those derived from soybeans, can trigger pasting. In that case, simply switching to a better-quality starter ration can solve the problem.

And that’s today’s news from the Cackle Coop.

Gail Damerow, author, Hatching and Brooding Your Own Chicks (Chickens, Turkeys, Ducks, Geese, Guinea Fowl)

21 thoughts on “Why Baby Chickens Get Pasty Butt and What to Do About It

  1. I just had two chicks die today. I’m guessing from pasty butt. One was laying down, I though dead but would move when touched so I cleaned her and tried to give her water. So I checked all other chicks and one other had bad pasty butt. I had to put her in water but not very deep of corse, I dried her and put her under heat lamp and she does too. I’m so devastated because I feel like I killed the one chick that was still upright and not lethargic. My question is how quickly does pasty butt come on? I’ve had my chicks for a month now and no issues. I’m a new chick momma. ?

    1. It can come on rather quickly. I would recommend using organic apple cider vinegar, 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar per quart of water…do that for 5-7 days. You should see an improvement.

  2. I found one of my chicks with pasty butt, I tried using oil and a q-tip to loosen it. It worked a little, but did not remove the entire thing. I filled up the sink with warm water, just deep enough to submerge the chick’s bottom, but not head. I held the chick with one hand and gently massaged the dried poop with my other hand. The chick did not seem too distressed by this and I was able to loosen all of the poop off. Some more came out as I cleaned her. I dried her off with a towel and put her under a heat lamp. Will this chick be more prone to getting this again?

    1. Emily, I just had this happen today with one of our new chicks. We are first time chick people lol so we are learning as we go. My oldest noticed the pasty butt and I knew it wasn’t normal and started running warm water and was able to loosen the poop and clear the area. Chick peeped quite a bit but has been fine and very active with the others still. The heat lamp warmed her back up and she’s all fluffy again. 🙂 Was wondering the same if she might have this pop up again but we will be watching all of them now. Didn’t know this was a thing! Let me know how your chick did or is doing now. 🙂 How many do you have? We have 6 and I’m hoping we can keep them healthy and happy!

  3. I talked to the lady at Cackle Hatchery and they still continue to stick with the 1/3 cup RACV to 1 quart water ratio for pasty butt. Maybe I didn’t give the chicks long enough to see if they would eventually drink it. Since CH knows more than I about raising chicks I increased the strength from 3 tbsp. RACV per 1 quart water to 1/3 cup vinegar per 1 quart water at day 8 and they are all drinking it.

    Thanks again Cackle Hatchery!

  4. Hi all,
    I recently ordered chicks from Cackle Hatchery and on the third day I found one chick lethargic and pasted up. So, I mixed up 1/3 of raw apple cider vinegar to one quart of 90 water as per instructions in the chick care pamphlet that came with the chicks. Initially they were given 90 degree water (quart) with 1/8 tsp. electrolytes before the one chick showed illness.I tried to give the sick chick droperfuls of RACV/water mixture and it gagged. I then noticed after that the rest of the active chicks were avoiding drinking this mixture after having an initial sip of the it. I then decided to taste this mixture, and it was too acidific for me to swallow easily so I can imagine a young chick drinking this ratio. I dumped this mixture and made a fresh mixture of 3 tablespoons of RACV to one quart water which the chicks drank. Maybe you can rewrite the chick care instruction pamphlet to reflect this. Try this 1/3 cup vinegar to one quart water yourself and see what I mean by the strength. It’s strong. Maybe okay for hens but not chicks. I have since followed the other advice giving the chicks a hard cooked egg yolk which they loved, and gently wiping any pasted up butts with a warm watered wash cloth. Just to be certain I don’t lose anymore I bought medicated feed with amprolium as I don’t want to loose anymore in case it is coccidiosis.

    If pasty butt is from coccidiosis it can kill baby chicks if sporozoites have formed. That’s why prevention is best because the sporozoites damage the intestinal cells.

    I appreciate the other information on what can cause pasty butt that was informative.

  5. Hello. We bought some chicks from a farm store, and one of the chicks had pasty butt, in the store. The associate asked if we wanted it removed, and we said sure. We thought she knew what she was doing, but she just put a glove on, and pulled it off with no warm water soak, first. We got home, and noticed the chick had no down around its vent area. It’s not sore, or raw looking, but it is bare. My question is, will the chick still grow in it’s feathers there with the missing down? It is a blue frizzle cochin bantam. Thank you.

  6. Can chicks die from pasty butt? I had a chick die the night I got her and she had a poopy butt. I was really upset about losing her thinking maybe I did something wrong! She came from tractor supply. How does the vinegar solution work in solving this issue?

    1. It’s been a long time since it happened, but to answer your question: Yes. If not caught quickly, pasty butt can be fatal. Maybe this can answer someone else looking too.

    2. I had the same thing happen to me i got some chicks grom tractor supply and the next day it died and had hard poop all over its butt that was my 6 yr old daughters chick so she was so upset i was talking to my family about it and they told me about pasty butt so i went back to tractor supply to get her a new one and told the lady about what happened to the chick and pasty butt she said i never heard of that how do u sell chicks and not know that

  7. Thanks for this article! My husband and I were wondering- when we get our chicks shipped to us and we move them to the brooder, would providing water BEFORE feeding reduce instances of pasty butt? If so, how long should we give them to get hydrated before feeding? We were thinking of doing this based on the quote from the article above: “Pasting is less likely to occur when the chicks’ first drink is no less than brooding temperature (95 to 100ºF) and the chicks are drinking well before they start eating.”

    1. I read that you should wait an hour at least to feed after their first drink to make sure they are settled a bit. I had two pass because of this and they cane home with it and by the time I got them home they passed. Had one pop up with it this morning but wasn’t bad at all so we caught it in time!

    2. the biggest issue with paste butt is a stress issue, could be shipping, too hot or too cold. Generally start them out with very very warm water to get hydrated and then give them chick starter mash or crumbles. You can also add 1/3 cup of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar to every quart of water for the 3-4 days.

      1. I’m confused in the article it says add 2 tablespoons to a quart of water. In the above answer you say 1/3 cup to a quart. Can you clarify please.

  8. we have had chicks that had pasty butt before we gave the electrolyte water too,, that is why we gave it to them, it seemed to of helped them clear it up, We have always started them on medicated chick grower feed too, now the translate from hatchery to where they are going might have a lot to do with it.and the fact they are given chloride water for there first drink. I would really like to figure out what causes it in the first place.

    1. The stress of the transfer causes it. Get them hydrated and feel free to add raw unfiltered apply cider vinegar to their water for the first few days.

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