How to treat Pasty Butt and Constipation in Chicks


Apr 28, 2020
Southwest Virginia
I have seen SO many people looking for answers to these issues and I know I don't see every post that comes through. I have 17, almost 6 week old chicks but had I not found some of this information, it definitely would be 16 chicks (maybe even 15). I had several folks tell me that keeping vents clean was my only treatment option but I kept digging and found a lot of this information right here in other folks' posts.
I hope this helps and that those who also have more methods to help will comment so that hopefully there will be fewer chicks lost to these issues. I know that there are chicks who cannot be saved due to internal issues that no one can correct but these methods saved one if not two of my chicks lives.

Pasty Butt

Pasty butt can be caused by stress, overheating, and dehydration to name the main causes. Make sure the brooder temp is not too high (dehydration) or low (stress) and that your chicks have a 'cool zone' away from the brooder light. If you haven't already, dip their beaks into their water to make sure they know where the water is. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) with 'The Mother' in their drinking water can also help with pasty butt. Add 2 TBSP/gallon. As it needs to be remade every 24 hours for freshness, I made smaller batches when my chicks were little. 1 TBSP/ half gallon water or 1&1/2 TSP/ Quart (4 cups) water. I suspect something like HydroHen would also have been helpful but at the time I needed it, everywhere was sold out.

Cleaning pasty butt off under a light, warm (not hot) stream of water in the sink seems to be less chafing than using paper towels or a wash cloth, especially if the pasty butt is chronic. Do not pull or pick the poop off as it can damage their skin. Rubbing the poopy bit between your fingers gently will get it to soften up with the water and come off without harm (feel free to wear gloves but thick gloves will make it harder to feel what you are doing). I was torn about how often to clean them up as dried poo is harder to remove but too much handling is stressful for them also. I would say no less than twice a day and maybe as much as 4 times a day but I'd love someone else's input on this one.

Note: Chicks do indeed have a navel! It is located low on their belly (almost between their legs) while the vent is higher up, just at the end of their back. I mention this here because the navel area can be a little (or a lot) swollen on very young chicks. I kept thinking one of mine had poop dried onto its belly and kept trying to wash it off. It just seemed to be a little too attached so I finally googled to see what it was. It is best to leave this area alone as much as possible (just like with an infant who's umbilical cord hasn't fallen off yet) as messing with it can have some serious consequences.

Dry them thoroughly before replacing in the brooder. Many folks use a hair dryer set to low and held about 6 inches (or more) away. If it feels hot to your bare skin, it feels hot to their bare skin. I don't own a hair dryer so I found that a forced air space heater works well and sometimes just holding them in my hand a little closer to the brooder light (I kept my hand open so they could hop down if they felt too hot).

Drying their down helps keep your other chicks from pecking at their exposed vent which can lead to serious injury. If your other chicks are pecking at your chick patient, place them in a separate brooder with a buddy that shows no interest in pecking. It doesn't have to be fancy! I had a large brooder because of the number of chicks I ordered. I placed a small cardboard box with pine bedding into one side of my brooder with a makeshift feeder and waterer. I was able to slide it around a bit until I could see that my chick patient and his buddy were settling comfortably. After a little time had passed I was able to reintroduce them back into the original brooder. Their siblings had forgotten what was so interesting about my chick patient's vent by then and left him alone.

A lubricant of some sort (Vaseline, coconut oil, even olive oil in a pinch) can help things slide more smoothly off the vent. Use a small amount as the other chicks may peck at the chicks vent if the down gets too oily and matted. Preparation H can help if the vent gets swollen. Use the original formula and not the pain relieving stuff.


In case of constipation, if you can get it to take some coconut oil and/or pineapple juice that is helpful. I used a dropper for that. I was giving maybe 1/8 tsp twice a day of a half juice, half oil mixture at 2 weeks of age. Adjust the amount up or down by the age of your chick. I have also read many people recommend coconut oil that has been frozen so that 'chips' can be broken off and placed in the chick's beak. Plain yogurt sprinkled with chick starter may be helpful and your babies will love it (once they stop looking at it like it is a monster, lol)! Also adding a bit of water to their feed to make a 'mash' helps add hydration.

I had to give one of mine an enema as it got so stopped up it couldn't go at all. He would posture like he had to poop but then make a sharp, loud cheep and little or nothing would come out. A small needleless syringe (found in the baby section of most stores) with about a 1/4 tsp of warm (not hot) water slowly squirted into the vent can be quite helpful if it gets that bad. Again, adjust the amount of liquid up or down based on the age of your chick. I had to do this twice before it stopped crying out when it tried to go, then I kept up the pineapple juice and coconut oil for about 3 days after. I read a post from a lady who gave her chick 5 enemas before things cleared up. I gave mine about 12 hours apart as all the handling involved in pasty butt clean up and enemas is stressful for chicks as well.

I have read that a warm epsom salts soak for 5 minutes in the vent area can be helpful for constipation but I never found a salt to water ratio. Too much salt can pull water out of tissues and I was skeptical that I would get it right. I did try this once (I don't remember the water to salt ratio I used) but quickly realized I'd have to soak almost the whole chick to get the vent into the water and I was reluctant to hold the little guy in there too long.

Please feel free to comment if you have additional suggestions or would like more specifics!

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