Chick Problems (Toe Picking & Pasting Up)
I’ve had 16 baby chicks for about a week now, and while they are a lot of fun, they are not without their problems. There is no mother hen around to show them the world and how things work, so you have to play that role to a certain extent.
When you first bring home a day old chick, it is very important to dip their beaks in their water, so they learn how to drink and where it is. It is also important that they have access to their feed. Make sure they are all eating and drinking. We have a crested breed that has a big head, that couldn’t fit her head through the window to get to the feeding troughs. Denise noticed it, so I had to adjust the windows, but she went almost a day without eating or drinking much. She is doing much better now.
One very common issue that we’ve been dealing with is pasting up. This is where their manure sticks to their down feathers eventually sealing their vent, and not allowing them to release their manure. This is actually very serious and can cause death. It is a good idea to take a cloth wet with warm water, and wipe the area clean. This may need to be done multiple times over a period of time until they grow out of it. It also helps if they drink a lot of water, so make sure they have good access to clean water. I’ve noticed that the two chicks that have had this problem are the broilers that I ordered. These chickens eat a lot of feed to grow quickly, so I bet they are not drinking enough.
We have also had some problems with toe picking. This is where a chick will literally peck at the other chick’s toes. Our Partridge Rock was the worst offender of this. She would not only peck at toes, but she would grab and pull legs as well, causing her poor victims to cry out in distress. I had to quarantine her until I figured out what to do, because it was a real nuisance to the others. I used some cardboard to make an area in the brooder just for her. She had access to feed and water, but she was not happy. She was peeping constantly and trying to jump out over and over again. I thought she was crazy! What concerned me was that she would not eat. For whatever reason, she could not figure out that the feed was food. I think she picked up the toe picking when she was in the box in the mail. Chicks will typically toe pick if they are hungry, overcrowded, bored, or in harsh light. I think she was having trouble figuring out what to eat. I ended up adding some purple clover, lambsquarters, wheat, and alfalfa for them to play with, and that seemed to help. I added a little feed on top of the plant matter, and she finally figured out what is food. She is now eating from the trough like everyone else, and the toe picking has subsided. Good thing for her, because I was planning to feed her to one of the cats out in the pasture.