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)

Written by Gail Damerow

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

  1. 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.

    • 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.

  2. 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.”

    • 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!

    • 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.

  3. 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?

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