Sorry 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