Unexplained Loss of Baby Chicks, Explained

Fecal Impaction

One Common Cause of Death, and Why

At one time or another it’s inevitable you’ll 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 one 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 chicks 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.

What Other Professionals Suggest:

Here’s what My Pet Chicken has to say about pasting up, scroll down to Important Health Notes.
Murray McMurray Hatchery’s advice on pasting up. Scroll to Special Situations After the Chicks Arrive.

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Fecal Impaction & Baby Chicks

 Poopy Bums 101

Avoiding Fecal Impaction, a Life Threatening Problem

You can’t always see if there’s a problem just by glancing over the chicks, so pick each chick up 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 an 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 sits 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 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 sits bath.