At Home Chicken Care: Sour Crop

Something I’ve learned in my (albeit short) life as a farmer’s wife, is that many injuries and ailments are easily remedied at home. Vet visitis are VERY expensive, especially for birds like chickens, because they are considered exotic animals, so one must learn to care for common ailments on your own.

Today, I get the opportunity to share a bit about issues with the crop…Hopefully it will help some of you in the future!

Bulging Crop

I went out to the coop to find one of my Ameracuana hens with a great big bulge on her chest. This indicates a problem with the crop. The crop is the first stop in the chickens digestive system. Problems can develop when the crop does not empty properly. This can be caused by a eating long grass, not enough grit, or just weak muscles that are unable to put enough pressure on the crop.

These problems are called impacted crop, sour crop, or pendulous crop. With an impacted crop you’ll usually feel a hard lump. With sour crop it will feel squishy, almost like a water balloon. Pendulous crop is a chronic issue, and the chicken may have to wear a crop bra to hold things in place.

In my case, the chicken has Sour Crop. Many sites will tell you to put the chicken on anti-biotics immediately. I disagree with this and wanted to try a holistic approach first. I only use medication as a last resort.

The first step is to expel the crop…basically you’re making the chicken throw up. The crop can not contract on it’s own so we have to help it along. First you want to use a syringe to administer olive oil or vegtable oil. Sometimes people will soak pieces of bread in oil and feed it to the chicken, but I don’t prefer this method because it just adds more food to remove from the crop. You only need a couple teaspoons of oil.

Next, massage the crop for about 5 minutes to loosen things up.

The dirty work comes after the massage. Now it’s  time to turn the chicken head down, feet up, and massage the crop from the bottom to the top (or from feet to throat). You’re trying to massage the contents of the crop. The chicken will try to pull her head up (obviously this isn’t a natural position for her!) but by gently pushing her head down, you’ll straighten the throat and make things slide out a lot faster. I’ll warn you now, the stuff that comes up is gooey, discoloured and STINKY! I made a video to demonstrate how to do this, but will have to cut out the sound before I post it because I was gagging in the background! lol not very professional!

What Came Up

Massage and expel for only 10 seconds at a time. You’ll want to tip the chicken back up-right in between so she can breath!

Do this a couple times, and then let the chicken be for a couple hours. It’s important to keep her off of hard feed while she’s recovering, but offer plenty of fresh water. I add 2 teaspoons of cider vinegar and 1 capsule of powdered probiotics to 1 gallon of water and offer that. The probioics are especially helpful to build up the good bacteria in the crop. (Another reason I don’t like antibiotics-they kill everything, good guys and bad). If the chicken is especially lethargic, you may have to use the syringe to get some liquid down.

You will likely see great improvement after emptying the crop. The vinegar, water and probiotics should be enough to help the body finish the job. If not, I would recommend consulting a veterinarian as a more intense approach may be necessary.

Not A Great Comparison But This Is After

As for my chicken, her crop is protruding much less, and she’s very active and alert. A good sign. I’ll keep her seperated from the layer crumbs for a couple more days, and instead offer her cooked oatmeal, scrambled eggs, and other soft nutritious foods.

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian!  the methods described in this article are my opinion and personal experience only, and are not meant to be a professional diagnosis or treatment for any animal. If you have any doubts what so ever, consult a veterinarian.


10 thoughts on “At Home Chicken Care: Sour Crop

  1. Great advice! I’m so glad your hen is doing much better now. I thought one of mine had a crop problem but I don’t think that’s what it is now. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Yes, it’s difficult to pin-point exactly what the problem is sometimes! Another thing I’ve learned about crop problems is that many birds have buldging, swollen, or pendulous- crops, and go on to live very normal lives with out making any visible improvement. My rule of thumb- If she eating sleeping pooping, laying eggs and generally behaving as she should, then I’ll leave her be.
      Thanks for stopping by, I really enjoyed peeking at your blog as well! 🙂

    • I’m sorry to hear that 😦 It’s a bit difficult dealing with chickens sometimes, especially because vet visits are so expensive, it often takes quite a lot of trial and error before we figure out how to handle common ailments on our own. I hope this will help you in the future!

  2. I have heard that turning a chicken upside down & emptying the crop can be pretty dangerous and you stand of chance of it aspirating and dying. Is it necessary to empty the crop if you keep them on soft foods, vinegar and probiotics?

    • I would certainly imagine that could be a risk, and it’s very important not to do it for more than a few seconds at a time. I’m not a vet though, so this tactic is merely a suggestion for backyard flock owners to try at their own risk. If a person had any doubt in their abilities to do this, I would strong suggest seeing a vet instead.
      And skipping that part all together may work just fine, as long as you follow the other steps, but I can’t say for sure as I’ve always done it the way I described.
      I hope that helps!
      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. i have had a chicken who died of sour crop i have now another one with it i have done all you have suggested, when i go to see her i never know what shes going to be like, for two weeks she picked up and was on her way to recovery. then i went down and she was very lethargic was on her own and wasnt intrested in food. yet again she had a sour crop so i started treating her again am really hoping she recovers

    • I’m sorry to hear that! Unfortunately sometimes, despite our best efforts, at home treatments aren’t effective enough and it’s best to either cull the bird and put her out of her misery, or take her to an experienced vet.
      I do hope she makes it 🙂

I love hearing from you and read (and try to respond to) every comment. Thank-you for taking the time to write one! "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." Ephesians. 4:29

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