As a chicken keeper, you must be aware of the common ailments that can occur in your flock and know how to treat them. One such ailment is sour crop, which can be fatal to poultry if left untreated. In this article, we explain what sour crop is as well as what causes it and how to treat it.
What Is A Crop On A Chicken?
The crop on a chicken refers to a very tough and muscular "bag" at the bottom of a hen's neck which stores the feed eaten for the day. It is located to the side of its right breast muscle and functions as a bag or pocket where food is stored after it's swallowed.
Occasionally this crop can become impacted or turn into a condition known as sour crop.
What is Sour Crop?
Chicken sour crop is a condition that affects the digestive system, specifically the crop, of chickens.
You may notice your chicken’s crop feels full and heavy, or they may have a foul-smelling liquid coming from their beak.
This is because the lining of their crop is inflamed, and they are likely experiencing a blockage.
The area below the chicken’s esophagus but above their gizzard is the crop.
The crop is a sack that stores food before it goes into the proventriculus, where it is broken down with enzymes and the gizzard, where it is ground up, so food can continue to digest.
The chicken's crop can become impacted or disturbed, and over time, the contents of the crop begin to ferment, which is not good. This can cause many problems for the chicken, including the inability to digest food (blockage), weight loss, poor appetite, diarrhea, and lethargy.
In severe cases, sour crop can be fatal.
Sour crop is caused by the naturally occurring fungus, candida, which leads to fermentation.
While candida isn’t bad at its core, sour crop is a type of infection that leads to yeast buildup in the bird's mouth and disturbs the beneficial bacteria in their crop and the rest of their digestive tract.
If components allow the bacteria to bloom and ferment in the digestive system, it causes a problem.
Chickens, and especially young chicks, must constantly battle naturally occurring organisms that thrive on sugars found within grains/pulp feeders. Without enough room for other microbes, even the beneficial ones.
What Causes Sour Crop?
A candida yeast infection can cause sour crop, but other things can cause it as well, including:
An imbalanced diet
Feeding your backyard poultry too much scratch, fiber, or not enough proper feed, can poorly impact them.
Additionally, if there is sugar or anything overly processed or artificial in your chicken’s food, it may be the culprit, as this can disrupt their naturally occurring good bacteria.
Infections or parasites
Just as they exist among humans and other animals, chickens can contract parasites or infections. These infections could be due to unclean living conditions or foodborne or spread from another animal. Infections that disrupt the crop and digestive tract can be serious and throw off their good-bacteria balance.
Medications, like antibiotics, can disrupt the body’s production of good bacteria, so if your backyard chicken just endured a round of antibiotics, this could be the cause.
Stress or Injury
Any stress or physical injury your chicken may have encountered could disrupt their nervous system and digestive tract; for example, an upset crop (from any of the above reasons, including stress) can result in a slow emptying crop or a blockage altogether.
You need to treat sour crop quickly, as it is a type of yeast infection, and there are only a few solid methods to do that.
Here are a few things you can use to treat sour crop available online:
Clear & Treat the Impacted Crop Contents
- Isolate your sick chicken from the rest of the flock, so that it does not continue to eat while making sure it still has an ample water supply.
- Keep her off her feed for 2-3 days to "starve" the yeast.
- If the crop is blocked with food that won't pass it is also now an "impacted crop" (the crop will feel full and hard and bulge out even after the food is taken away for some time).
- Gently massage the crop with your hands and fingers.
- Mix ½ cup of warm water with epsom salts.
- Using a syringe, very gently and slowly feed the water-epsom salt mixture into the bird's mouth being careful not to go too fast and to let the bird swallow by herself or else she may get the water into the lungs (very bad).
- Do this twice a day for 2-3 days.
- If crop is not impacted, keep chicken off of feed and just make sure she has ample access to fresh, clean water.
Once the crop is empty, you can start feeding the chicken a bland diet of water and electrolytes and/or nutritional supplements, followed by scrambled eggs and boiled rice or oatmeal.
Very slowly, over a period of several days or up to a week, introduce her back to her regular feed while still keeping her separate from the rest of the flock.
It is important to do this slowly, as sudden changes in diet can exacerbate the condition.
If you need help, seek assistance from a veterinarian.
While not necessarily a vet-recommended choice, many chicken keepers opt to use a bit of olive oil to promote movement if they feel their chicken is still suffering from a blockage after they attempt to empty her crop.
It is important to remember that if you use olive oil in large quantities, it could further upset your chicken’s stomach, so be sure to start with only a few drops diluted in water.
From there, massage her crop to aid in the digestive process.
Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a natural antifungal; since candida causes yeast infections- such as sour crop- a few drops diluted in water can go a long way in helping rid your chicken’s body of this fungal infection.
You can also add a few spoonfuls into your flock's water as a general good health measure.
Feeding Bottle and Syringes
This cost-efficient pack of syringes is perfect for flushing a crop issue and feeding chickens, as they offer a five-pack (with different nipples and four caps for each) so you can adjust the size to fit your chicken’s size and needs.
If you suspect your chicken has sour crop or an impacted crop along with the sour crop, it is important to isolate them from food, supply them with water, and act quickly to alleviate their blockage and discomfort!
If the above methods don’t help your chicken, seek assistance from a trusted professional.
Learn More About Chickens:
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- Feeding Chickens Cheese & Dairy Products
- What To Feed Chickens During Winter
- Can Chickens Eat Grapes? Grape Safety & Nutrition
- Can Chickens Eat Bananas & Banana Peels?
- Fermenting Chicken Feed For Healthier Hens, Better Eggs, & Cost Savings
- 15 Surprising Benefits Of Backyard Chickens
- Pasty Butt in Chickens: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, & Prevention