I am very new to chickens and bought a few day old chicks. After four days, one of them has poo hanging from her butt.  I washed it clean and now she is more active. Is she sick? Should I quarantine?” Laura from SC

This is a very common question with a very hopeful answer: no need to quarantine. Disease in newly hatched birds is not overly common. Pasty butt, which is the condition she is describing, is very common and usually not a sign of disease, at all. In fact, they often get it once and then it’s over, if you understand what causes it.

Pasty butt is simply a result of being cold. I am not sure why it happens but that is usually the cause. The chill likely came in transit from hatchery to your home. Adjusting the heat source for your birds will take care of pasty butt.

When providing heat for your chicks, always, always make sure you have two zones. One warm and one where they can cool off. Too much heat will kill your birds. I know because I did it. I was so upset when most of my newly hatched turkey chicks died. Newbie mistake, but the small box I had them in held too much heat and they had to where to go.

Watch your birds and you will know if you have proper heat. If they huddle under the heat all the time, they are too cold. If they run out, eat and come back to rest under heat, that’s good, but can be better. If they stay out, moving around, you have things just right. When they only sleep under the heat, you know you have the best conditions.

If a bird presents with pasty butt, simply take the bird with a very wet paper towel and press on it until it begins to soften and pick off. I have had to take my chicks and butt wash them under a faucet. Then when the vent is clean, dry it and apply Vaseline with a Qtip. Watch her but she will probably be good from then. You will see increased movement and she will return to normal.

Also, make sure it is pasty butt and not its belly button you are looking at! Again, it happened to me. Pasty butt will be pretty obvious and large. The bird will likely be lethargic. Those are the ones that need a butt check.

I am a believer in apple cider vinegar in chick’s water. It is good for their crops and kills microbes. I have lost but a few, seriously many three chicks in 25 years. So trust me, it is good for them.

While at least one chick in a batch often gets pasty butt, it is not contagious, nor bad chick keeping and can be taken care of with proper care. Don’t panic, just clean them up and off they will go.

Happy Homesteading, Scarlett

Image courtesy of mailorderpoultry.com