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Q: What is a pasty vent, and how do I treat it?

A:

A pasty vent, or "pasting up," "pasty butt," or "vent gleet," is a stress-induced condition in which droppings dry and cake up around the vent of young baby chicks. It is most dangerous when it completely blocks their vent opening, because the chick will be unable pass any more droppings. A baby chick will typically die within 2 days of onset of a blocked vent, so it's important that you remedy this problem quickly.

Diagnosis

A pasty vent is easy to diagnose. The dried poo will be stuck to the outside of their rear, totally or partially covering their vent:

Pasted

Locating the vent

Don’t mistake the navel/dried umbilical cord of a new chick for a pasted vent! The vent is beneath the tail; the navel is further down toward the legs/belly. If you remove the scab over an open navel, it will nearly always result in a dead chick, and the poor thing will die very painfully. So before removing anything, be sure you’re targeting pasting, not a healing navel.

Treatment

First, we only recommend you treat a chick whose vent is fully pasted, as treatment can be stressful enough to induce pasty butt! If you determine you've got a completely blocked vent, here's what to do. Keep in mind that the least-stressful thing for the chick is to treat quickly and return it to its flock-mates. The longer you have it out of its brooder, the more likely the pasted butt will recur.
  • Gather your materials: a paper towel, Q-tips, a portable heater or blow dryer, a bowl of warm water, and a bag for disposal of soiled items.
  • Put paper towel down under where you'll be working on the chick. If you have a portable heater, place it next to your work station for the chick's comfort.
  • Bring the affected chick to your work station.
  • Wet a paper towel in the bowl of warm water and apply to chick's rear to soften the dried droppings.
  • Give the poo a "tug", using the paper towel, and see if it comes off. (Don't be afraid if a little of the chick's fluffy rear end feathers come out, too.)
  • If it doesn't, keep wetting the rear end, using either Q-tips or paper towels to dislodge the poo.
We know the chicks seem so young and fragile, but don't be too shy here. Remember, this condition is deadly, and if you don't clear the vent, the chick will die. Also, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good! A little dingleberry (ha!) left will no harm the chick. It will stress the chick MORE if you're keeping it out of it's brooder for 20 minutes trying to achieve a perfectly clean rump.

Once the chick is clear, dry it off with paper towels, spend a few moment near the heater if the chick seems to enjoy that, and return it to the brooder as soon as possible.

Signs of a pasty butt

Of course, the big one is the pasted rear! You should always check your chicks for pasty butt, at least for the first two weeks of their lives. But there are other signs of a pasty butt, including lack of appetite, lethargy, and a "fluffed up" appearance.

What to do about recurrent pasty butt

If your chick continues to paste up beyond two weeks, or pastes up as an adult, and you're sure their environment isn't the factor (too hot, too cold, too drafty, wet or stinky bedding, etc.), it's time to call the vet. Intestinal worms or other issues could be the underlying cause.