Treating pasty butt in chicks

Even though it's late in the season but one of my perma-broody Silkies just hatched another set of chicks. Unfortunately one of the chicks has pasty butt but that's ok because I realized I've never talked about how I treat pasty butt in chicks! It's actually super simple and usually only requires a few minutes of effort. Even though it doesn't look like much, pasty butt can kill a chick rather quickly.

How to treat pasty butt in chicks.

What is pasty butt in chickens?

Pasty butt is when poop sticks to a chicks normally fluffy bum area. It starts with one little bit of runny poop sticking to the butt feathers after they poop. Sometimes that's the end of it and that little bit dries up and flakes off. 

Often though, the poop will build up till their vent is basically 'pasted' shut. When that happens the chick cannot poop at all. Not being able to poop can be deadly because the poop inside their little system builds up and the toxins kill them.

It mostly happens to very young chicks, usually less than 2 weeks old. Though it can happen in older chicks, it's not common.
Luckily treatment is as easy as clean the butt, oil it up so more poop can't stick and fix the issue that caused the problem in the first place. Sounds easy right? Let's get started.

What causes pasty butt in chicks? 

When a chick has to go potty the poop usually falls clear of their fluffy bum down and hits the ground instead. However, if they have diarrhea then the poop is much wetter than usual and can stick to the feathers. Once one bit of poo dries to their bum the next poo sticks to that. It tends to build up fairly quickly. 

In the course of a few hours a chick can go from a perfectly dry bum to completely plugged up. Diarrhea in chicks can be caused by their brooder being too cold, drinking dirty water, the wrong feed or a bacteria in the digestive tract. Pasty butt is one of the most common illnesses in chicks.

Treating pasty butt in chicks

The first thing you need to do is to get the dried poop off the chicks butt. Do not just pick it off! That will rip out the little feathers and possibly tear the delicate skin. You need to soften the poop first. Dip a washcloth in warm water and dab the chicks butt with it. You may have to hold it on there a minute to soften the poo. If you can wipe it away, then great! Most likely you'll have to pick it off though.

This can be a slow process of repeatedly wetting the washcloth and holding it on the chicks bum, then picking some poo off after a minute. Then do it again. Do this until the chicks bum is clean. Dab with a paper towel to dry.

Cleaning pasty butt chicks

Once dry you'll want to apply a little oil to the butt area to prevent more poo from sticking again. I use olive oil or coconut oil. Don't use Vaseline or Neosporin since the chick might try to peck at it. You wouldn't want her ingesting either of those! Check the chick often over the next few days to make sure she doesn't paste back up again, as it often takes a few days to go away.

Check that the brooder is an appropriate temperature. You can also add probiotics to the chicks feed or give small amounts of plain yogurt with active cultures. This can help improve her digestion and help her build up good bacteria to fight off any bad bacteria she might ingest.

How to prevent pasty butt:

Give chicks clean, brooder temperature water to drink for the first two weeks. Make sure the water is kept clean as dirty water can spread bacteria among all the chicks. After the first two week room temperature water is fine.

Make sure their brooder temperature is comfortable for them. It should be 95 for their first week of life and drop by 5 every week after. A brooder that is too hot or too cold can cause pasty butt.
Do not add sugar to chicks water and be careful with the amount of electrolytes added to the water of shipped chicks. Too much is not better!

Check your chicks daily for pasty butt

Make sure you check chicks often for signs of pasty butt in their first few weeks of life. Caught early, pasty butt is completely treatable. I know a lot of sites claim that it mostly happens in shipped chicks raised in brooders, but every case of pasty butt I've experienced the chicks were hatched and raised by a broody hen. 

So don't let your guard down and not check chicks simply because they're with mama hen! A few seconds of checking every day can save your chicks life!  

Related reading: Everything you need to know to care for chicks and keets properly.


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  1. This winter I have noticed one of my leghorns has pasty butt. And it seems so nasty. I was waiting for warm weather, in case I need to soak her bottom. But what do I soak in, just warm water or do I need to put something in the water? I have had my girls for about 2 years. They are more pets then chickens.

    Thank you for your advice.


    1. When an adult chicken has a poopy butt it's often caused by digestive problems or internal parasites. It would probably be a good idea to deworm the flock. Just soak her in warm water to clean her off, no need for anything else...though you could use a little bit of mild shampoo. Good luck with her!