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!
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!
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.
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.