Pasty butt is a term used to describe the buildup of loose fecal material that has dried up in the fine down feathers surrounding a chick’s cloaca vent. This is a common sign of stress in chicks. A chick with pasty butt that is left untreated will not be able to eliminate wastes and may die shortly after. Fortunately, pasty butt is easily treated and can be prevented.
Pasty butt occurs most often in chicks that were hatched with an incubator and have never been in contact with the mother hen. In a natural situation, the hen will remove all excrement from the cloaca vent of each chick during her normal cleaning and care taking routine. Chicks that are sent through the mail are also prone to this problem as the shipping process creates stress for the chicks which will more than likely lead to pasty butt.
To treat pasty butt, take a wash cloth that has been moistened with warm water and gently rub the affected area until the fecal matter begins to loosen up from the down feathers. As soon as the fecal matter is loosened, try to remove it by picking it off of the down feathers and away from the cloaca vent. After removing the fecal matter, wash the affected area once more and pat the feathers dry. Return the chick to its enclosure (brooder) and watch to make sure it does not occur again. Fortunately, pasty butt only occurs in very young chicks and is something that they will grow out of.
To prevent pasty butt from reoccuring, it is important to monitor the temperature and what type of food you are feeding the chicks. Chicks need to be kept warm but will also need a place in their brooder that is cooler. Chicks that are kept at one temperature may get too hot and redevelop pasty butt. It is also important to feed your chicks some protein with their food. An easy way to do this is to simply boil some eggs and feed them the cooked yolks. Do not think of this as cannibalism as they are only eating unfertilized eggs.
It is important to remember that chicks are small and helpless and will need your help since they are being raised without their biological mother. Pasty butt is a common problem when chicks are raised by humans who do not perform or necessarily know the proper ways to care for chicks.