I have a great feeling about this spring. I feel organized, and ready to start the outdoor year. We don’t have any major projects going this spring which is a first and things feel somewhat relaxed. We have plenty of hay left for the goats from last year’s cutting and the equipment is in working order, just waiting for the grass to grow. Our second hive is assembled and waiting for our package of bees to arrive. The maple sap collection is well under way and we’ve tweaked the system so that it’s almost no maintenance. The raised beds in the garden are patiently waiting for the first seeds of the year and our many compost systems are set up and working nicely. I think I’m ready.
One disappointing thing is that I don’t think our dairy goats are pregnant. I think our new buck Timber was simply too young last fall. He never really displayed much of a rut, and I feel like the girls should be showing some definite signs of pregnancy by now. So far…not much but hopeful imaginings.
Typically I shear the angora goats this month, but the cold temperatures are holding on. I think I’ll wait to see what the last week in March looks like before I disrobe them of their winter warmth.
It’s a good feeling to be on top of things. And because of this, we’ve expanded our list of spring arrivals. We’ve decided to add some additional poultry to our farm this year. I’m slowly phasing out some of our fancier breeds and focusing on breeds recognized by the APA (American Poultry Association) or those on some of the ALBC’s (American Livestock Breed Conservancy) lists.
My goal is to show some birds in the future. I’d really like to concentrate on raising Black Jersey Giants and Buff Orphingtons. These large breeds are two of my favorites.
We have several hens in the coop from last year and more pullets already in our brooder. I also have my name on two cockerels that I’ll pick up next month.
Chicks aren’t the only new birds we’ll be adding. In addition to our established Black Spanish turkey flock, we will be adding Narragansetts and Bourbon Reds. I’ve truly become a lover of turkeys. I never thought that something could replace my affection for chickens, but turkeys have won me over. My advice is, if you have the means to raise turkeys, do! They’re wonderful!
We started with chicks a little early this season because I wanted to have my brooders open for rearing turkeys. Because of this, I was prepared to deal with pasty butt.
I know it sounds like an odd correlation but I’ve raised chicks every spring since I was 14 and like clockwork, early chicks are more prone to pasty butt. I think the reason is because the early chicks come in when the weather is cooler. I believe that they get chilled and that’s what causes the problem.
What is Pasty Butt? WARNING! Gross photos ahead!
Pasty butt or pasting up, pasting over etc. is when a chick defecates and the dropping get stuck to the soft down around the vent and dry. The next time it defecates, the dropping get stuck again and slowly this builds up until the entire vent is pasted over and blocked. The chick, at this early age, is too small to reach its beak to the back of its body and groom the droppings away. If left untreated the chick can die.
In nature, a mother hen would clean her chicks, but if you’re brooding chicks, you get to be mother hen.
What Causes It?
Mostly stress. Chicks that are shipped often experience pasty butt, as I said above, being chilled will bring it on also.
How to treat it?
It might sound easy enough…”how to wipe a chicks bottom”? And it is simple if you stay on top of things and are able to wipe the chick’s bottom right away when they go. But with a heat lamp on, it creates a very dry environment and the droppings dry quickly. Overnight, while you’re sleeping, a chick’s bottom can completely seal off.
Keep a close eye on your chicks the first week you have them. Usually after the first week, the chick is developed enough to where it can groom itself. You’re looking for a dark accumulation of droppings just under the tail.
To remove the droppings, I find that a terrycloth washrag works the best. I use an old one that I simply rinse out eat time I use it, until the chicks are old enough to care for themselves, then I throw it away.
Terry cloth works well because it holds enough moisture in the fibers to really penetrate the dried droppings. The texture also works well to gently rub the droppings away from the delicate down feathers.
You can wear latex gloves while you do this to keep things a little more sanitary for yourself if you wish.
To remove, gently hold the chick in your hands. Hold it firmly, but gently. Best if you’re over a soft area so if the chick falls it won’t be injured. Soak a rag in warm (not hot) water. Ring it out a bit, you want it pretty moist, but not soaking. Hold the rag with your fingers and sort of pinch at the droppings being sure not to pinch or pull the chicks skin. Hold it there and continue soaking until the droppings soften. Gently rub the dropping away until the skin and feathers are clear.
Dry the chick off with a cloth. If the chick gets especially wet during the process you can blow dry it with the dryer set on low/warm (not hot).
Usually a chick only needs to be cleaned one or two times and then it can take care if itself. But it is critical to keep a close eye on your chicks and clean them as soon as possible.
What are your spring plans? Share with the community by leaving a comment below, or by visiting the Community Chickens Facebook Page.