Poopy-bum patrol

New babies arrive!

New babies arrive!

I have just gotten back from a few days hunting trip, without my buck. While I was away, fifty new baby chickens arrived and were snuggled into the nursery part of the barn by the OTT. I got home later that evening and checked on them before going to bed. I thought two of them didn’t look very strong and by morning one was dead, followed by two more later that night. And then there were forty-seven.

A mild case of poopy-bum, they are often a lot worse if you don't catch it early!

A mild case of poopy-bum. They are often a lot worse if you don't catch them early.

You get so you can recognize the ones who likely won’t  make it. One of the things I noticed immediately (and check for this every time I raise baby chicks or turkeys) was that several of them have what I officially call ‘poopy-bum’. This is a condition where the feces form a pasty plug that covers the vent (anus). It is life threatening; the birds will die if it is not corrected quickly. The medicated feed is supposed to prevent this, but it doesn’t seem to be 100% effective so I always do poopy-bum patrol for the first few weeks of their little lives.

Today, I set to addressing the immediate emergency: I took a bucket of warm soapy water, a roll of paper towel and a stool out to the barn, and let the games begin. The game goes like this: I sit quietly, watching the little rear ends as they race by. When I spot a poopy-bum, I reach out and grab it, put it in a small box, and repeat the process until I am satisfied there are no more poopy-bums on the floor. Once I have all the bums-in-need scooped into the box, I wash them gently, one by one, in the lukewarm soapy water.

Carefully dunking just the rear end of the chick so as to not get her too wet.

Carefully dunking just the rear end of the chick so as to not get her too wet.

To do this, gently take the chick in one hand and immerse the rear end in the water. The water should be the temperature that you would feed a baby bottled milk, lukewarm to the wrist. Rub the poop between your fingers, being careful not to pull on it, as you might hurt the tiny bird. Eventually  the water will soften the poop enough for you to clean it off the feathers. DO NOT pull on the poop: you may tear the skin off the bird, or even pull its innards out if the poop is stuck to its colon. Either event is fatal. Be patient: the poop will eventually dissolve, leaving behind a clean behind. Before putting the chick back with the flock, wipe its bum with paper towel until as dry as possible so the chick doesn’t catch a chill. (DO NOT blow-dry with a hair dryer: this will burn the skin completely. Let your heat lamps do the drying.)

Freshly washed, now clean, poopy-bum. Notice the bird is only wet where necessary.

Freshly washed, now clean, poopy-bum. Notice the bird is only wet where necessary.

The poop is incredibly sticky. Whoever invented glue from horse/cow hooves obviously never tried chicken poop first! The whole ordeal for one poopy-bum cleaning may take a few minutes, thanks to the tenacity of the poop. It will come off eventually and you will have saved lives in the process. If you don’t clear the vent, the bird will die. I shudder to think about how many factory farmed birds suffer and die in this way.

Little wet, but clean, bum returned to her flock.

Little wet, but clean, bum returned to her flock.

I have noticed that I can reduce the poopy-bum rate by feeding fresh, ground up weeds from the garden. Since employing this tactic, I have reduced my losses of brought-in birds significantly.

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18 Comments

Filed under Animal issues, Chickens, How to..., Turkeys

18 responses to “Poopy-bum patrol

  1. olddani

    Wow, doesn’t matter what type of babies you have, they all involve bum wiping. What a simple way of saving little lives.

  2. Ah the joys of animal husbandry!

    Thanks for that tip though, when CheepCheep was small he had a mild case of that and I didn’t realise it was a problem. Luckily he came through allright but I will know for next time.

  3. EJ

    I have washed bums of larger chickens but never chicks. Thanks for the educational post!

  4. Aw, what cute little poopy bums! And sad to think that someone might pull on the poop. (is this a weird conversation?) I’m such an animal husbandry wimp. But I do enjoy reading yours and your cohorts’ blogs!

  5. Rebecca, yes, I too enjoy my colleagues’ blogs. I learn so much from them!

  6. Jen

    I can’t wait to get my own chooks someday. I’ll probably just have enough to keep me in eggs and maybe give away a dozen every now and then. There’s nothing better than fresh eggs.

  7. Pingback: Egg ‘profits’ « Howling Duck Ranch

  8. photobby

    Ah the memories! With 80 hens last year we had many a bum to soak! We found incorporating cracked corn in their diet helped immensely (the medicated feed didn’t seem to help the bums much for ours either).

    • Hey Adam, For me, the solution was to give them the greens. I will try some cracked corn as well this year and see how we fare. I hesitated over that idea last year not knowing how the little chicks would fare. Good info, thanks!

  9. Tammy

    Thanks all, I am very new to this chicken stuff, (Got our first batch of chicks yesterday!!!) and was looking for information on their poopy bums…glad I found this site!! Very helpful! Thanks!

  10. Thank you for the great information. Just noticed this on one chick yesterday and have been trying to clean it, but was not being thorough enough. One website actually did say to tear it off!! I could not even think of that in case of it being attached to the innards!! Did what you said and then sat out in the sun (88 degrees and sunny) with her for a few minutes and she is all well again!

    • So glad this info was helpful for you. You are correct not to have followed the ‘tear it off’ suggestion. Not only would that be terribly painful for the little chick but also it may tear skin and/or be attached to innards as you suspected. Well done you.

      HDR

  11. Megan :)

    Dude you are suriously my hero. I didn’t know it was fatal,, and my chick Sunny had it for a few days and I didn’t know and it started to grow bigger and my mum said just pull it off with a tissue and I was worried so I looked it up. So if I hadn’t of found this she would’ve died 😦 . Btw is it normal for her to keep chirping really loud? cuz I have everything there for her but she just keeps chirping really loud, except when I hold her she stops for a while then it starts again. Is there anything wrong there? But anyways Thank you so much 🙂

    • Hello Meagan,

      Yes, it is normal for chicks to chirp loudly and continuously! The first time I hatched eggs by myself with an incubator was a stressful time because, like you, I had no idea what to expect. The funny thing is they start chirping like that BEFORE they are even hatched. I freaked me out. I worried that they were in distress and not able to crack themselves out of their shells. I knew that you were not, under any circumstances, supposed to help them hatch so I watched and listened and fretted and lost a lot of sleep. Not unlike real motherhood I suppose!

      cheers,

      Kristeva

  12. Ryan

    Poopy bum is not often fatal. Electrolytes in the water will remedy this in a few days…no washing required. Better yet, PREVENT poopy bums by keeping the chicks extra warm in the first several days (90f+). Poopy bum is caused by early chilling.

    Ryan

  13. Claire

    Do you have any tips for older chicks i have 4 2month olds and 1 was really lethargic today, she had poop stuck partway out of her bum and i wiped it with a rag and a 6″ strand fell out. since shes still really lethargic and hasn’t pooped again though she pushes. And ideas?

  14. Claire

    Do you have any tips for older chicks i have 4 2month olds and 1 was really lethargic today, she had poop stuck partway out of her bum and i wiped it with a rag and a 6″ strand fell out. since shes still really lethargic and hasn’t pooped again though she pushes. And ideas?

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