Chicks don’t need a lot of care – basically they need water, food, and heat. The littlest guys though, who are just learning how to eat food and drink enough water need to be watched for something called Pasty Butt. Because birds eliminate urine and poop in one package, if they don’t know how to drink enough water, or if they are eating some of the absorbent bedding they can get concentrated waste and that can cause a problem.
Concentrated waste sometimes doesn’t drop off and then that bird poop dries into a hard little blob. If the poop is stuck on the bum (technically it’s a cloacae) then it can form a plug preventing any more poop from being passed. If you try to “rip” the poop off, you can tear delicate tissue. This is serious and can lead to death. Pasty Butt is a situation that needs to be addressed immediately
I advise all of my chicken workshop students to keep a box of alcohol-free wipes near their chicks. It’s not a big deal, you just periodically check the butts and if you see stuck poop, you *gently* remove it using the wipes.
But what if you’ve been at work all day and you come home to a dried poop that doesn’t seem to want to come off? One of my students had that very thing happen and she wrote to me.
Pasty Butt Question
I attended your wonderful chickens 101 talk. You talked about pasty butt so I got the alcohol free wipes. I just brought my chicks home today. One has a lot of dried poop on his butt. I tried to remove it but it was really caked on and wouldn’t come off. Suggestions?
Pasty Butt Answer
Take a paper towel and soak it in warm (not hot) water. Hold it as a compress against the bum to soften the stool and then use the wipes to “grab” it off. This is a short phase which will pass with your chicks. I’m glad you were able to recognize and take care of it.
Pasty Butt typically only happens to the very young chicks who are still trying to figure out the skills of eating and drinking, but I have seen injured or sick birds who were too weak to stand get a version of it as the poop dried on their tail feathers and bums. The same technique would apply, soften if needed and gently remove.
Bottom line, although you were glad when your last one got out of diapers, when you decide to raise chickens, don’t think that your baby butt wiping days are over – it’s simply what us mama hens have to do to take care of our chicks.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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