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The Frugal Farmer

Pasty Butt

Jessi SpringSorry Mom. I know “butt” isn't a lady-like word to say.  But it's what this condition is called in a baby chick, and it can be fatal. But it's very common and easily treatable if you know what to look for.

It basically happens when the conditions are not exactly right for a baby chick.  It's more common in baby chicks that are shipped through the mail. Really and truly, I don't think they know exactly what causes it. But I can tell you that I've never bought a batch of baby chicks from the store or through the mail that didn't have at least one that had Pasty Butt. We ordered 20 that came last week.  Of those, four have it so far. The good news is that it is very simple to treat.


We simply take the ones that have Pasty Butt, remove them from the other chickens, and put them in a box so I can keep track of them. We fill a small bowl with warm (but not hot) water. You hold the chicken’s booty into the water and let it soften up the waste that is stuck on their booty. After it softens up for a couple of minutes, you can wipe it off with a paper towel. If it's really bad, you may have to do it two or three times, or even use some diluted blue Dawn to wash them.  Most instructions online encourage you to wash the chickens with your hand. I have to be honest, there's no way I'm bathing a baby chicken's booty with my bare hand. So I use a corner of a paper towel for this. Plus it helps to loosen up the waste on their bottoms.


One thing that's important to mention is that when you put the chickens back in with the others, if you leave them too wet, the other chickens may peck them in their exposed skin on their sensitive little bottoms. Poor things! Because of this risk, it's important to get the chicks as dry as possible before you put them back in to the brooder with the others. I use a hair dryer on the lowest setting (at quite a distance from the chicken) to achieve this.


This all probably seems pretty gross if you've never dealt with chickens before. So an important thing to mention is that this happened with my very first batch of chickens. I was a brand-spanking-new farmer and had literally never touched a bird. We had owned our land for two months and were getting our very first batch of chicks. When the first chickens we bought had this, it was completely natural to take care of them. I don't like to see any animal suffer. And in the interest of frugality, it makes complete sense to take care of your investment of course.

Just keep an eye on your baby chickens. If you're checking on them several times a day, you will catch this early and will have no trouble treating it. Good luck!

Jessi is a Master Gardener in Upstate SC. She runs Southern Roots Farm

How to Afford Your Homestead

Jessi SpringLike so many others, we moved out to the country thinking that we could build a small farm, sell some produce and maybe a little bit of livestock, and make some money. And of course, don't forget the small fortune I planned to make from selling surplus honey.

I'm sure that someone can do that, but I'm not one of those people! As a special needs mom, community volunteer, small business owner, wife, whatever-other-title I have that particular day, I don't have quite as much free time as most people. And frankly, I just don't have the desire. We switched from thinking of this as a farm to thinking of it as a homestead. We have lots of food that we've grown for our family and enough to share with others. We really enjoy our livestock and fresh organic food. But we're never going to get rich from this. So instead, let’s focus on how to save money and make your homestead affordable. Our farmstead cost us nearly $0 to run following these tips and many others that I look forward to sharing with you in the coming months. 

The first thing you need to do the minute you walk through the door of your home or farmstead is find a way to make compost. If you're throwing those onion and banana peels in the trash, then you're wasting money. Any food scraps should be going to feed your animals or make compost. Don't waste anything. To make this convenient, I use a small plastic container with a lid and save scraps in the kitchen while I cook. Every few days, we simply take it out to the compost bin, wash the container and start anew. There are plenty of tutorials about how to build free or cheap compost bins online. Ours is simply four pallets stood up on end. You can even hold them together with zip ties from the dollar store. Total cost, one dollar. Here is a tutorial from HGTV.

The next step is to soil test. As a Master Gardener, this is something that I preach constantly. But most people still don't get it. They want to garden the way their grandparents did and lime every year because Grandpa did. “Grandpa always added a certain fertilizer. So that’s what I do too.” You could be doing much more harm than good if you're just guessing like this. A soil test turns guesswork gardening into science. It makes it much easier especially if you're new to gardening or gardening in a new place.  By the way, Master Gardeners in your area will help you understand your soil test.

The next step is to not buy anything if you can make it. You have to balance your time and your skillset with this, obviously, but here's an example. When I gardened in the city as a young professional, I worked downtown and gardened on the weekends. We went to a big box store and bought plant labels for seeds. Now that I run a 10-acre hobby farm, I cut apart milk jugs and make plant labels.  Check out my pictures for a simple tutorial.

diy plant labels

Jessi is a Master Gardener in Upstate SC.  She runs Southern Roots Farm

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