Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chicken Chatter: Baby chicks and pasty butt

I posted about getting our baby chicks last May, and how much we loved them.  What I didn't mention was that one of them developed pasty butt the first night we had them.  I thought it would be best to share this story as many individuals may be thinking about getting chickens this spring.

In case you've never owned chickens--pasty butt is a common problem with raising baby chicks (excuse the language). It happens when their poop gets stuck to their bottom and hardens.  After this, they are blocked and can't poop anymore.  It is a deadly condition if not treated!!
It's important to check baby chicks for pasty butt.
I had done a lot of reading on chickens before we got them, so I had heard of pasty butt.  However, as a new chick momma, I didn't think about checking them for pasty butt.  The first day around 6pm, I noticed one of our buff orpingtons seemed lethargic, so I thought that she might have pasty butt.  I picked her up and sure enough, she had a lot of hard poo on her bottom.  I got some warm water and a wash cloth, and with a lot of persistence I got it off.

I watched her after this, and she wouldn't eat or drink.  All she would do was lay down to fall asleep--not a good sign.  I was scared that she might not survive.  I knew that after her pasty butt ordeal, she was probably dehydrated.  Since she wouldn't drink on her own, I decided to make her drink.  I made a sugar water mixture (1 tsp sugar to 2 cups warm water).  I put 1ml into a syringe and fed her the sugar water 1 drop at a time while holding her.  It was a slow process (she wasn't interested in drinking) but I got her to swallow quite a bit.

After this, I made her a little infirmary to go in the brooder.  It was just a plastic storage container that I put hardware wire over. She had her own little dish of food and water. This had two benefits.  First, the other chickens couldn't pick on her and she could rest.  Second, by being isolated I could tell if she was eating, drinking, or pooping.
Chick recovering from pasty butt in an infirmary in the brooder.
After a couple hours, she hadn't improved.  So I made another water mixture, this time with about 1tsp of molasses and a capsule of probiotic in 2 cups of warm water.  I read that molasses is a natural laxative for chickens, and probiotics are good for baby chick tummies.  Again, I put 1ml in a syringe and fed her drop by drop.

At this point it was late, and I needed to sleep.  I put the little buff in her infirmary and hoped for the best.  Honestly, I feared that she wouldn't make it through the night.  I woke up at 4am to check on her: she was alive, but still lethargic--she HAD pooped though!  I went back to bed hoping she would be ok.

At 7am, I woke up to "PEEP!!! PEEP!!! PEEP!!!".  The chicks were far from my bedroom, so this chick was really screaming to wake me up.  As a good momma hen, I sprung out of bed and ran to the chicks. The little sick buff was jumping up and down in her infirmary INSISTING on being let out.  I quickly took the wire off, and she sprung out!  And then she ran around saying hello to her friends.  I watched her eat and drink.
The next day she was energetic and playing.
I was so thrilled that she bounced back after the night before!  And I'm very thankful that I caught the pasty butt when I did.  Next time we get baby chicks, I will know to check for pasty butt frequently from the beginning.  After the pasty butt incident, I checked them for it multiple times a day and treated it before it became a problem.
Here is 'Sunshine'--1 week after pasty butt.
And above is the little chick one week after her near-death experience.  She's just as energetic and developed as the other chickens.  We decided to name her Sunshine.
And here is Sunshine as an adult.

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