At one time or another, you’ll inevitably lose one or more of your new baby chicks. Mail-order chicks or chicks kept in stressful conditions are most at risk. We usually blame it on one thing or another, but the most common reason is often overlooked… and can be avoided. Once dehydration is ruled out, and the chick showed no other signs of trouble before it died, the problem is often caused by pasting up, which is just a fancy name for a poopy bum. This is simply a condition where the baby chick’s poop gets stuck on the downy feathers outside their vent and prevents them from pooping. It’s often a fatal condition, so it’s very important to check all the chickie bums for at least the first two weeks of life. Tending to Pasting Up If there’s fecal matter stuck to the chick’s vent, use a warm wet cloth and soak it off. Sometimes if a chick has a chronic problem with pasting up it’s better to pull off the poop when it’s dry. This way it takes all the downy feathers with it, preventing another impaction.
Avoiding Fecal Impaction, Also known as Pasting up
You can’t always see if there’s a problem just by glancing over the chicks, so pick each chick up and check for fecal matter. It’s always good practice to handle your chicks anyway, so this is a good way to socialize and take care of them at the same time. If you find a chick with a poopy wad, use warm water and a cloth to gently clean it off, if it’s hard and stuck like glue use a drop or two of soap. Soap seems to soften the fecal matter and allows you to work it out. It’s absolutely vital to check all your little chick’s bums for fecal matter every day or you will surely have a much bigger problem, such as a treatment for impaction, or worse, death. Danger Signs of Impaction Young chicks commonly suffer from fecal impaction, and if left untreated they will die. The warning signs are listlessness, stumbling, and sometimes a swollen abdomen. Most likely your ailing chick has a dirty bum with caked on fecal matter hindering the ability to poop. What to Do Soak the chick in a warm sitz bath for at least 5 minutes and gently remove all the fecal matter using a few drops of soap to help soften. After treatment, keep the chick isolated so you’re sure the little guy poops. Remember, chicks chill easily and it’s important to provide an adequate heat source as soon as possible after the sitz bath.
Shade is hard to come by in Phoenix, but not impossible if you’re creative. If your chickens are in a small coop they are unlikely to survive triple-digit temperatures, I know that sounds a bit harsh, but it’s true. June will most likely exceed 110, which means 120+ in the coop, and that’s a death sentence. Your birds will fair well in temperatures up to 105 if they are not confined, have shade, and a place to dig a hole in the dirt. Make sure they have cool water available, if the water is too hot they won’t drink enough to stay hydrated. Make it easy on yourself, use buckets instead of those chicken drinkers that are impossible to clean and a big hassle to fill. When temperatures reach over 105 in the shade it’s time to introduce a fan to the chicken yard. I don’t use anything fancy, a $20.00 box fan will do the trick. Hang it from a fence (wreath hangers work nicely) or anyplace where it won’t tip over. Your birds will stand in front of that fan like they were watching a movie!
June and July are the worst months for excessive heat, 110 -115+, and when you really have to stay on top of your chicken-keeping responsibilities. Mist systems help cool the air, especially with a fan to keep the air moving. I like the standing misters ($10.) that attach to a hose. Place it right in the chicken yard, and dig up a small area near it so the moisture forms a little mud pool for the birds. If you free-feed your chickens, don’t in summer. Feed produces heat, so feed early morning, a little during the day, and just before they return to the coop at night. Never offer scratch feed in summer, it’s a hot feed and unsuitable for your feathered desert dwellers. Offer your flock a watermelon, or a head of lettuce instead, this will help keep them hydrated.
Danger Signs of Heat Exhaustion
The first sign of trouble is dark red, then pale comb and wattles. As their condition worsens they will become unstable on their feet, lethargic, wobble, and even fall over and lie lifeless. They will die quickly if you don’t act fast. Note: Heavy or meat Birds such as Orpingtons are the first to show signs of heat intolerance, watch them closely. Chickens will hold their wings out from their body, pant, and lay in holes on their side – all normal behavior when they’re very hot. What to Do Submerge the chicken in a 5 gal. bucket of warm water and place the bird under a shade tree. Don’t bring the bird indoors to air conditioning, this will only make matters worse when you return the chicken to the outdoors. A fan on low will help cool the bird quickly, they usually recover within 15-20 minutes. Ideas for Providing Shade Shade Cloth Mesh Tarps Lattice Palm Frond Shade Sails