Chicken Coop Chatter©
You may experience *pasty butt* in shipped chicks. This is often caused by stress, but there can be illnesses associated with pasty butt as well. Though this can happen even when you hatch chicks from eggs, it is rare and they do not undergo the stresses that shipped chicks will.
Chicks have been shipped for over 100 years via various means of travel and more recently via mail carrier, which means some may be flown into your state, picked up and then transported by truck or mail carrier, but they've ridden trains, wagon trains possibly even transported via Pony express. When you order from a hatchery, chicks are shipped, they have many miles of travel and up to three days in an environment that is unstable and foreign to them with many disruptions. Because of the mode of travel, chicks can be very stressed which will cause pasty butt.
Pasty butt is generally treatable if there is no illness like coccidosis associated with it. But it can be detrimental if not caught and treated early. Diarrhea causes dehydration and the chicks can die from that dehydration. If not treated, the pasted feces will block the vent to prevent normal excretions, causing internal poisoning.
Always be ready to pick the chicks up at your local post office and have your brooder environment prepared and pre-heated ahead of their arrival. Have a quality feed and fresh water available to the chicks at all times, with warm bedding of straw, hay, or wood chips. Make certain if you are using a heat lamp that it is secure and no way it can fall into the brooder if bumped. Place a thermometer in the brooder to monitor temperatures, so it is not too warm or too cold. Adjust the height of the heating unit to maintain proper temperature for the chicks. If you notice chicks huddled in a corner away from the heat lamp it is too warm, raise it. If you find them huddled and stacked one on top of another under the lamp, lower it, that's an indicator they are too cold. Chill can also be associated with pasty butt or temperature variations they will experience in travel or unstable temperature within a brooder.
When chicks arrive, place them in the prepared brooder. Allow them time to settle in without disturbances, but check them periodically for any signs of distress or lethargy. The chicks may sleep a lot the first couple of days and be less active as they rest up from their journey. Just make sure it's resting and not illness. After a couple days of rest they should be active much of the time except their normal resting periods.
If you notice diarrhea, start using a vinegar solution of 1 T. pure Apple Cider Vinegar to 1 gallon water to help adjust the body pH, which also helps with digestion. If you notice any chicks that are showing signs of pasty butt, where the feces is sticking to and matting their feathers against the vent, you must clean that off with warm water and a soft cloth to clear the vent. If this is not cleaned off, the vent will be blocked and not allow proper excretion. It will be helpful to rub some Bag Balm on and around the vent area to prevent the feces from sticking, but this will also help reduce any swelling or redness around the vent. If you do not have Bag Balm, Vaseline will help keep the feces from sticking and blocking the vent. If there is any bleeding associated with the pasty butt, dab on some Blue Kote to prevent pecking issues from other chicks. Pecking of the vent area can cause cannibalism and death of the affected chick.
Brooders must be kept sanitary and cleaned daily, to prevent illness. Sterilizing can be done every few days, but new bedding must be added daily. If there is any water spillage, the bedding needs to be changed to prevent the chicks from chill caused by the dampness or wet environment, which will also cause illness. Always sterilize all equipment from one brood to another if you are bringing other chicks in after one group has graduated from the brooder.
Make sure when handling the chicks that you and your children wash thoroughly each time. If you have flock of established chicks or chickens, wash thoroughly between handling the chicks and handling the flocks. It is handy to have the anti-bacterial wipes at the door of the coop and near the brooder as a reminder to wash up so you are not passing pathogens along to those new chicks. It is also best that visitors not handle the chicks, especially if they are chicken owners unless they wash thoroughly before handling so they are not inadvertently passing along pathogens from their own flocks.
Chicken breeders will not allow you into their incubating or brooding areas because of pathogens you may bring to their environment and you will not be allowed to enter runs or coops for the same reason. They do not set these rules because there is something to hide, they set these rules because they are protecting their chicken environment from foreign pathogens. Respect the rules of other chicken owners and set your own rules to protect your flocks and brooding chicks.
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