Some background: About 2 years ago I sold my IT business and decided I wanted to become a 'farmer'. One year ago we settled down in Mexico, bought a 900 acres historical hacienda and got to work. My short medium term goal (5 years) is to built up a hatchery business with a relative small output of 1000 chicks per day. My current setup is that I have 5 flocks free-ranging, varying in group size from just 30 to 200. Total birds is up to about 500 now. All birds where purchased as baby chicks. About 400 of them from a 'professional' hatcher and about 100 from backyard flock owners. My oldest group of birds is a mix of: barred rock, isa brown, rhode island red, black nacked neck, total of 24 females and 3 males. Down the road I want to purchase a professional incubator but while learning the process I decided to not waste money (yet) on a bad investment. The mature flock produces about 20 eggs on average per day. I've setup 4 home made incubators (styrofoam). Each incubator has air circulation 24/7, enough humidity and temp running at 99F. After reading a lot about turning I decided to NOT bother with turning. My goal was not high hatching numbers but learning how the process really works before going more professional. Currently I hatch about 40% of our eggs. The remaining 60% are opened and can be divided between infertile (or not developed due to non turn) and dead during last week. The key issue for me currently is not how to get my 40% up but how to solve another issue: mortality rate of the 40% hatched is high, too high. Brooder is setup on wire (did non wire and wood shavings as well to test the difference). Chicks are fed normal water with a vitamin supplement Chicks are fed commercial starter (with medication). I did test without medication and without vitamins but results where similar. About 50% of the chicks develop 'pasty butt'. Daily they are cleaned still pasty butt will not go away resulting in very high death rate. -I can rule out genetic issues since the flock is too diverse -brooder is setup on 87F, had it warmer and colder, no effect on my problems. -the parents truly free range in a relative dry climate, very hard to develop issues as pollorum -eggs are collected about once an hour! -newly hatched chicks are left to dry in incubator/hatcher for up to 48hrs depending on the chick. -newly introduced chicks to the brooder are forced to drink first. -When I purchase commercial hatched chicks in a batch of 100 about 20 will end up dead due to sticky butt as well!. Any suggestions/ideas? K.