Chickens Health Issues

Crop Issues in Backyard Chickens

Tilly and I

The digestive tract of birds, including chickens, is entirely different from that of humans.  Just like us, they can run into problems with digestion that can lead to a very ill bird and even cause death. Crop issues in chickens are something every chicken keeper should know about.

When a chicken eats, all food makes it’s way from the beak, down the esophagus to the crop.  Food eaten remains in the crop where it is stored and moistened.  The crop functions as a sorting and holding tank.  From the crop, the food is sorted into one of two “stomachs” either the proventriculus or the gizzard.  The proventriculus is where the “easy” to digest food goes. Here it meets hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes that do all of the work.  Food that requires mechanical breakdown with muscular contractions and the use of small stones (grit) is sorted to the gizzard for processing.  After the proventriculus and the gizzard have completed processing the food it all goes into the small intestines and continues processing through the remaining digestive tract.  Sometimes, problems occur in the crop causing digestion to cease or not function properly.  These are called impacted crop, sour crop and pendulous crop.  A chicken that is experiencing a crop problem may show all or some of these symptoms including weight loss, lethargy, difficulty turning their head side to side and isolation.

Impacted Crop

Diagnosis~
The crop is located in the middle of the upper chest of the chicken.  If it is firm it is full.  A healthy full crop should be about the size of a plum and non-tender.  Crops should be full at bedtime and empty in the morning.  An impacted crop will be firm and large like a tennis ball and may be tender to touch.

Causes~
Eating long grasses, straw and hay
Eating foreign found objects such as plastic, rubber bands, metal
Infection (bacterial or fungal)
Ingesting large pieces of tough food such as meat/corncobs
Pendulous crop

Treatment~
Be sure the crop is emptying by feeling it first thing in the morning before the chicken eats.  If the crop is firm, tender and the size of a tennis ball, then the crop is most likely impacted.

The treatment is to empty the crop.  Try gently massaging the crop with your fingers as if you are kneading dough.  Sometimes, this is enough to get things moving.  It may require you to do this a couple of times per day for a few days.

During this time, feed your chicken soft bread  (no crust) soaked in olive oil.  The olive oil is thought to act as a lubricant and may help the crop to empty.  Be sure that plenty of grit is available and do not feed this chicken any treats, seeds, scratch, fruits or vegetables during this time. These are the most difficult to digest.  A clean source of water should also be available at all times. If all is better in a couple of days, then try some scrambled eggs and then in a couple days more, move onto just plain chicken feed.

However, after a couple of days, if you see no improvement, I highly recommend seeking veterinarian help.  There are many articles on how to empty the crop on the internet.  However, an inexperienced person doing this can easily kill a chicken by causing suffocation from the procedure and/or aspiration of crop contents into the lungs.  In some cases, the crop even requires surgical emptying.  Please do not attempt this on your own.  Some states view this as animal cruelty without having proper surgical training and being able to administer pain medication and proper sedation of your animal.

Finally, if the impacted crop was caused by an infection, then it will needed to be treated.

Sour Crop


Diagnosis~
Sour crop is caused when the emptying of the crop is slowed or delayed.  If food sits in the crop for too long, it can ferment and a yeast infection (fungal) can develop.  A chicken that has a sour crop will have a large boggy feeling crop that is squishy and enlarged but not firm.  You can hear gases as you move it around as well as gurgling.  The chicken’s breath will also smell yeasty and fermented.  Often the crop is tender to touch.

Causes~
Improper emptying of crop
Impacted crop-partial or complete
Recent antibiotic use (causing secondary infection)
Infection (fungal)
Worms affecting rate of digestion

Treatment~
Sour crop is incredibly difficult to treat without medication from the vet.  Chickens with sour crops require a one week course of prescribed antifungal medication (Nystatin). You can purchase it here. Be sure to treat the underlying cause as well.  These include ensuring your flock is wormed, off recent medication and that their crop is emptying properly.

Adding probiotics and apple cider vinegar to their drinking water may also help as well.

Pendulous Crop

Sometimes the muscles in the crop can become damaged.  Damage occurs from a previous impacted crop and/or eating heavy food.  In this case, the chicken’s crop will be full and enlarged and dangle toward the ground and can sway from side to side.  It is important to confirm that this chicken’s crop is emptying overnight.  If not, this can lead to an impacted crop.  Pendulous crops are usually treated with putting the chicken on water for a 24 hour period and letting the crop rest.  It is recommended to reintroduce regular food with plenty of grit afterwards.  Treats, seeds, scratch, fruits and vegetable consumption should be avoided until the crop has returned to normal functioning.   If you discover the crop is not emptying, then it may require veterinarian assistance.

Promoting a Healthy Crop

Tips~
~Be sure your chickens have access to grit at all times.
~Avoid feeding your chicken large hard to digest foods.
~Clean up your yard from any foreign objects that chickens could potential ingest.
~Add apple cider vinegar (1 tablespoon per gallon) to their water supply. This helps to keep yeast levels balanced.  Use plastic waterers, this will cause metal ones to rust.  
~Feed your flock plain yogurt with live and active cultures to help promote the good gut bacteria.
~Adding probiotics in feed.
~Avoid feeding your flock sugary human food.
~Inspect your flock’s crops now and then.
~Keep grasses short where the chickens free range (2 inches max)
~If your chickens eat straw and hay, avoid giving it to them.

When Tilly was 10 weeks old, she had been dining on long strands of grass in the yard and woods surrounding her coop.  The girls and her loved free ranging and eating fresh goodies in the yard.  She also developed a habit of eating straw from the bedding.  Long pieces would hang from her mouth as she tried to swallow them down into her crop.  Not long after, she had an impacted crop that required veterinarian treatment including emptying and at the same time treatment for a sour crop.  With the vet’s help, she made a full recovery.  Her crop did lose most of the muscle tone and with large meals, it does become pendulous at times.  I am glad, because from the beginning she has been and still is our head hen.  Tilly is almost 2 years old.

Photo Credit: 4JPhotography

 

 

  • Thank You so much for this post. I was so confused about the different crop issues out there… You made it nice and simple !

  • So fun that I have found your blog – I think it must've been through a magazine… we are new to the chicken world – got our first "girls" this fall – all under the pleading of my nine year old farm-girl-at-heart daughter, Taylor. She did so much research and is just amazing with how much she knows on the topic. We have a variety of pullets – had to surrender her favorite chicken, Ginger, that turned out to be a rooster – sad little girl. Anyway, love the names of your girls and I will be following your blog to learn more – Taylor will love to read, too. Thanks for creating this blog!

  • Thanks, Melissa, for the in-depth info — My girls have never suffered from these issues, fortunately, but I am always eager to know ! So glad Tillie's well, and that you learned how to keep her healthy.

  • Thank you SAKim and Lauren! Glad you found the post helpful.

    Tamara, welcome to the wonderful world of chickens. I am so glad you found us! I hope you enjoy our adventures and share yours with us from time to time.

  • Always such helpful advice. They will eat anything.:)

  • good to know! thanks for the info.

  • I am so enjoying your blog. It is gearing me up nicely for starting a flock of my own this spring. I've thought of starting one for some time but you are inspiring me into action. At least, that's the plan…
    Thanks for all the great info, beautiful photos and fun reads.

  • Thank you pauline. I am so glad that you will be starting with a flock of your own. Two years ago, I was in your shoes and today, I could not imagine my life without them. Keep us posted on how it goes. I know you will love them!

  • Oh, I was new to chicken raising and put out straw and my Jersey Giant (who we now refer to as a goat) at it and got sour crop. Was so scary and sad. I took her to the vet and today she is fine. But I will never put out straw. Which is sad, because they have so much fun kicking it around. As fall comes, I'll rake up leaves and put those out in their run and spike it with seeds for them to hunt for. But this is a great post. Every flock and every hen is different. You just have to keep a close eye on them.

    • Thanks Flock Mistress. Thank goodness your Jersey Giant was okay and you were watching closely to realize exactly what is going on. Great point- you do have to keep an eye on them!

  • I was told that I should hold the bird head down & massage the crop. She vomited a lot of stuff & seemed fine afterwards. But when I repeated the procedure today she couldnt walk & is breathing hard. Any advise?

    • Oh no, sometimes that procedure can cause birds to get some of the fluid down their wind pipe into their lungs, or it could be that the illness is very stressful to her. I might advise you to seek out the advice of an avian vet who can examine her and treat her.

    • Anonymous

      Our golden sebright got sour crop once. My husband did the whole turn her head down and massage. Scary. Lots came out and we kept her in the house for the night. Goldie made a full recovery, but a cat got her a few months later. Oh I miss my Goldie gold 🙁

  • This is such great information. I lost my Harper (Speckled Sussex hen) 2 weeks ago to a crop issue. It was gut wrenching. By the time I learned what to do, it was too late. Sadly, I'm much more informed now, but it will benefit the rest of the girls in my flock. I love all the good information you share and look forward to your next post.

    • Oh, I am so sorry for the loss of Harper. It is never easy they are our loved ones, even if they are chickens. I am so happy to hear that this post will benefit your flock. It makes what I do worth doing. Thank you for sharing your story today.

  • Emma

    I have been trawling the internet for information on crop problems in chickens as I have a 9 week old chick with a crop that won't empty. Her crop is squishy and the size of a tennis ball. I have ruled out sour crop (dosen't smell yeasty) and there is no blockage. So, that leaves me with pendulous crop which most people say can't be fixed. What's interesting with your information is that you mention worms being a possible cause of a crop not emptying due to digestion interference. My chick is pooping normally and is eating as if she is ravenous but she is really thin. Armed with this new info. I'm now treating her for worms so thankyou for this insight and I hope this is what is wrong and I can help her.

    • Hi Emma, I am so glad you found the post. Do you have a local vet nearby that sees chickens? They might be able to help confirm what is going on with your little one.

    • Emma

      Yes, he is a poultry vet and he has already seen her. He confirmed that there wasn't a blockage or that she had sour crop but he gave her antibiotics anyway (which just made her poop runny). I asked him if it could be worms and he confirmed that it might. I'm one day into this treatment and she is still eating more than she should so I'm limiting the amount of food intake in the hopes that the food in her crop will pass through on its own. After all, something is getting through as she is pooping alot! I'm concerned that the crop muscle has stretched too far as when I empty it, it stays about golf ball sized instead of being flat, and it still doesn't empty on its own. Thanks for your input.

    • Oh good, I'm glad she saw the vet. If I recall correctly, I believe I have seen folks make a sling like contraption for the pendulous crops that helps the crop to stay in place, adds support and and hopefully help strengthen it. You might try googling it. Good luck and please keep me post on your baby.

    • Emma

      Just to let you know that my chick (now named Sweetie Pie) seems a litle better. The worming treatment didn't seem to improve anything, no visable signs in her poop and her crop continued to fill. Thinking that her problem may be digestion I gave her a little digestive enzymes to speed up that process and eureka! Her crop started to empty on its own. I still have to "milk" her crop every two days at the moment as her crop is saggy from being overstretched and some fluid sometimes remains, but this is much better than the twice daily I was having to do! I have tried making a "crop bra" for her but she's feisty and keeps ripping it off! I will persevere. I'm so grateful that I found your site as I now have a few options to try before calling it a day. I believe all life is precious and it's worth learning how to fix problems we encounter rather than culling at the first sign of trouble. Thanks again.

    • Oh Emma, this is really great news. Probiotics might help too. She is so very luck to have you as her chicken momma! Kudos to your for being so dedicated. Thank you too for the update. I have had you in my mind. Please stop by anytime. Always glad to help if I can.

    • Emma

      Hi, I just wanted to update you and anyone else who reads this, how I've got on with my poorly chick. I'm pleased to say that she is now 10 months old and laying well but still has the same reoccurring crop problem. After initially trying all sorts to treat her I established that she was eating the wrong things like wood shaving and long grass which takes longer to digest. There seemed to be no obvious blockage but I have found that whenever her crop fills and doesn't empty in the morning, I milk the crop as much as I can in one go then feed her on scrambled egg mixed with two teaspoons of live natural yoghurt. I do this for the first day then introduce softened layers pellets from day two. I only milk the crop in the morning if it is more than half full then keep her on the egg/live yogurt diet along with soft food until the crop naturally starts to empty. This usually takes up to a week. As for the enzymes, I didn't feel using these helped with the sour smell after all they are acids so I don't use them anymore. I have heard that dairy products shouldn't be given to poultry but my poultry vet recommended it and I've found that this is the quickest way of solving a sour crop problem.

    • I am so happy to hear that you figured out everything. Keep up the great work!

  • Anonymous

    Hi, I'm a cat rescuer turned chicken nanny for the weekend until Wednesday. This chicken's crop isn't emptying. (I didn't know until 3 days ago what a crop was!). I've read up on it and learned how to empty it. I did with success two days ago. Very liquid, smelly. Went to vet who said to give her Clavimox and Kaytee Exact for baby birds. She recommended 10 – 20cc's every four hours. I was feeding her a concoction I'd found online that includes wheat bread, a little yogurt with cultures (Nancy's), 1/2 cup buttermilk, and human baby applesauce. she started moving/pooping when I gave that to her. It seems now that she's on the other food, she's plugged up again and not much is getting through. So, I started giving her small amounts of both. So, now I'm not sure what to do. She seemed to do better on the liquid formula. Emma mentioned digestive enzymes. That's what the applesauce is supposed to help with but is there something else? Help! Sorry, I have to go as anonymous – don't understand the choices, but my name is Gemma.

    • Poor baby. As I am not a vet, I can only share my experiences. There might be some sort of blockage further down her digestive tract. It could also be that there is a fungal infection in there. You could treat that with Nystatin liquid from the vet. Also, are you feeding her grit? You could also try switching foods and being sure she has access to plenty of water. I wish I knew, it is so hard to help over the internet 🙁

  • I loved reading this piece! Well written! 🙂

    Andres
    stomach help
    stomach support

  • Anonymous

    Hello from western Massachusetts. We have a beautiful, friendly Speckled Sussex that suffered from a sour crop. Very swollen some days, a little better on others after trying some of the remedies here, along with a trip to the vet. Researching animal husbandry / poultry care via websites like this, and picking up some tips, is most welcome. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge.

    • You are very welcome. Have you tried the Nystatin liquid by mouth available from the vet? It really worked wonders for our poor Tilly.

  • Anonymous

    I lost one of my first hens to crop issues last year, we were fairly sure it was sour crop, and she did perk up a bit after the vet emptied the crop with a tube, but when we took her home, it quickly filled up again. We took her back for a second treatment (she was quite weak at this point) and the vet tried an injection of something directly into the crop to stimulate its function again, but poor Peaches died within seconds of it.

    Afterwards, they took another xray and saw what appeared to be a large tumor causing the issue. The mistake was that the first xray they took was while the crop was full, so it the tumor was obscured by all the food in there.

    All in all, fairly heartbreaking. As a hybrid, she was considered a fairly old hen at 2.5 years, but it still dealt quite a blow. In the future, I'll ask for xrays after the crop is emptied if I ever find myself in the same situation, to save the poor chook some fairly traumatic treatments that may not do any good.

  • I came to your site looking for remedies for crop problems in one of my hens. Your descriptions are great. I have hope for my hen. Thanks!

    Barbara

  • Thanks for writing about this. I too have run into an issue with one of my chickens, Rosie. My son bought some chicks last year, which started us down the road of having a small flock. We have a Dominique which seems to have a pendulous crop, according to the descriptions I've been reading online. We noticed this morning she kept sitting down every couple of minutes, right in the middle of the chicken run. After reading about what might be wrong with her earlier this evening, I separated her into a small room in a box with crumble feed and water with a little vinegar and a small amount of greek yogurt. We may take her to the vet in the morning, if possible. I am hesitant to hold her upside down and empty her crop as I've never done it before and don't want to hurt her. She's such a sweetie pie and I hate to see her uncomfortable. Her crop is about tennis ball size and is soft. She doesn't mind my massaging it and it is like a sac, which hangs a little in the front. Does this mean she will always have this problem, even If she gets better?

    • Not necessarily so. It sounds to me like the crop could just be sour. A trip to the vet might be worth it for some oral anti-fungal medication. While there they may want to empty it. I think you are smart not to try it yourself if you have a vet nearby. Always best when we can to let the trained professionals take care of our ill animals.

  • Anonymous

    not sure if you got my comment… i will send again. Copper , 2 year old fluffy feet RI Red. October 2013- Egg broke inside antibiotics give. Did OK. Then got sicker. Thought I was losing her. Sour Crop- antibiotics- Better. December – Vet appt x ray showed impacted crop and gizzard. January- Impacted crop better after tmt with antibiotic, water, massage. January- gizzard remains full of stones. lavage today with mineral oil and peanut butter. Tolerated well. Home today- 4 days of Mineral oil/pb in food BID. Her spirit is great, eating and drinking well. Surgery last resort. any other recommendations to empty gizzard? She is very special to me and has a determination to fight this battle. I will do anything I can. Please advise.

    • Goodness, you and your hen have been through so much together. Other than what I mention in the post above, it sounds like you have done all that you can do. I would keep her away from all food except for her chicken feed, grit and oyster shells. She may be one of those chickens that has problems with seeds and tougher vegetables. Also, I would eliminate the use of straw or hay for bedding. My hens tend to eat it and it gets stuck in their crops. I hope that helps. Good Luck!

  • Anonymous

    Hey, my chicken Dolly has Sour Crop. I am trying to figure out why it keeps coming back. Dolly does not eat my bedding. I used to have a big patch of wheat grass where my flock would graze. That is how Dolly originally got Sour Crop, I am sure! Too many long grasses. She had it for about a couple months, and I tried in vain to cure it by vomiting her , no free ranging and putting Apple Cider Vinegar in her water. For about a week, there still no free ranging and her crop was empty in the mornings. I was delighted, but just to make sure, I did not let her free range. Soooo, a couple mornings later, I grabbed her up just as she was tumbling down the ladder, and lo and behold!!! A very squishy, full, and popping crop! I vomited her, and some yucky smelling goo came up. (By the way, I was feeding her wet layer mash during the time.) Today, she still has Sour Crop. I have never, ever seen any of my chickens eat bedding, and I am usually there when they go up to the roost. Why does keep getting it? I am very curious and thankful for your replys! 🙂

    • Poor Dolly. I think some chickens can be prone to developing sour crop more than others.She may not be able to free-range with the others for a while until her crop has really healed up. I would give it a few months before letting her out in the grasses again. Do keep the grasses mowed short as well-maximum a couple of inches high. See how things go after you give her crop longer to resume normal functioning. You could also try giving her probiotics in her water to help speed up the return of the normal crop and gut flora. Keep me posted.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you very much! I appriciate your helpful reply! (-: Can she eat things like bugs, or is that too hard on her crop? Should I keep her in a different cage to moniter how much she is pooping? Thank you so much. (-:

    • You are welcome. No bugs, seeds or anything other than her chicken feed or soft bread, scrambled eggs at this point. That crop needs "rest". You could put her in a different cage near her family. In the coop would be best. Maybe something like this: http://www.tillysnest.com/2012/07/a-chicken-safe-place-diy-instructions.html
      Do keep me posted. Wishing her a speedy recovery. She is lucky to have you.

  • Anonymous

    Her crop felt a little better today than yesterday. It wasn't as 'squishy'. I was lucky to accidently stumble over Tilly's Nest last night! It sounds like an awesome site. Thank you for the info.

  • Anonymous

    She had an empty crop this morning!

    • Awesome! Crops take time to heal. Rest and easy food to digest is best. It can take weeks before you can introduce bugs, seeds and grasses back into their diets. Go slow and so happy to hear she is better.

  • I took my Chicken, Little Chicken Noodle Nugget to the vet and they emptied her crop (it was enlarged and would not empty) and they put her on antibiotics, plus gave her a shot there. I have her resting comfortably now but she is weak but she is eating yogurt, the bread in the oil, layer feed and her water, I have grit available, but have not seen her mess with it, she has severe diarrhea, and has been on the antibiotics for 3 days now. In the morning she had a little hard lump about the size of a dime in her crop. Does that mean it is not digesting again? If you have any advice I would gladly appreciate it. I called my vet and asked about the anti fungal medicine and I am waiting for his call back. Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    I have a question..Can a tumor or abscess in a chicken cause Sour or Impacted Crop? By the way, Dolly is a well and healthy girl with a nice crop now!!!!

    • If there is a tumor or abscess near the crop and if it is large enough, it certainly could affect the proper functioning of the crop. Sounds like you might need to visit the chicken vet.

  • Anonymous

    I'm glad I found this post, very helpful info! One of my hens has suffered an impacted crop, but unfortunately I didn't recognize there was a problem until her crop became large and pendulous. This is my first time having chickens, so I didn't know what was going on! poor girl! I tried emptying her crop, but only a small amount of fluid came out. Gave her antibiotics and olive oil, massaged the crop several times, which didn't seem to help. So, I put her on a 24 hour fast, only water for her to drink, and gave her a couple doses of Colace stool softener. (I found out about that one on Backyardchickens.com) Her crop is FINALLY starting to shrink. Hooray!! I was almost ready to cull her. I'm going to keep her on a soft food diet for a few days and see if her crop shrinks back down to normal. And once it does, I think I'll invest in one of those "crop bras". I hope that her poor crop muscles can eventually go back to normal 🙂

    • So glad to hear she is on the mend! Yahoo! Try some feeding her some cooked scrambled eggs at first to see how she handles them. That is a great place to start!

  • Anonymous

    this is a very nice site and verry informative. i am relatively new to chicken ownership and was very concerned when one of my girls became really lethargic yesterday and refused to leave the coop. when i checked her i felt what seemed to be a large collection of fluid on her chest. i instinctively massaged the area which was not warm or tender to her. when i saw your information on the crop i thought i knew what i was dealing with. fortunately, when i went out this morning, she was 100% better. she was anxious to get out of the coop and start scratching around but i picked her up and checked her and was excited to find that the fluid build up had totally dissipated. ty for a gr8 resource, i will be bookmarking it for future reference. elizabeth

  • Anonymous

    Hello everyone, I am in Australia and just came across your blog. Its great. We too have chooks, all bantams. One of my beautiful original girls has just unfortunately passed away this morning. She had an impacted crop a few weeks ago and we took her to the vet whereby they tried to reduce it but she underwent surgery to do so. Brave little girl. She was 5 years old and hadn't had this before, nor had we changed anything in her diet. They are all free range as well. She came home and was on antibiotics for a week and over the past 2 days I noticed her getting an enlarged crop again. I took her back to the vet yesterday as she was not looking well and they were going to try and soften the crop with water to try and aid with digestion. As I said to them at the time I felt there was an underlying problem we need to look at. She stayed in overnight with them and I just received a call this morning to say she had passed away during the night. So wish I could have done more. Don't know whether to go the autopsy or not, to see what may have caused it. Has anyone done this before? Possibly overkill, excuse the bad pun. Just don't want this to happen to any more of them. She was my cuddliest girl. Hope all of your chooks make speedy recoveries. Jules x

    • Hi Jules, I am so sorry to hear this about your girl. It is always hard to tell what they pass from. In the states there are some labs that will perform necropsies on backyard chickens. To help the other girls, be sure they definitely have access to chicken grit (tiny stones). Crop issues are not contagious. I hope this helps. Thinking of you.

  • Wow, I came across your post from Apple Mason Jar, forget how else. I am so glad I discovered your blog. Altho my hubs grew up on farm in OK he has forgotten or never knew much of what I've read here tonight. I read most of comments also and hopefully learned alot. I had no idea about the crop issue. Will know to check for it now. I've never had chickens before so knew nothing about them. Think your blog is going to educate me a great deal, hope so. I prefer to read up on things to learn ahead of time not just listen to people that say they know about chickens in our neighborhood which is rural.
    Our chickens are about 8 months old, they are laying nicely for us, we have no rooster. We got about 2 months ago. We got them from a neighbor of our daughters who were moving, couldn't keep. Since we got them they get plenty of attention and love, good food and cracked corn and meal worms for a treat. Their food is the little gravely stuff, and oyster shell, fresh water every day. They do have hay in their coop and little yard outside coop. They were eating the grain in the hay outside their yard so we covered it up so it's no longer available to them. We let them free range in our back yard all day which is grass and weeds. I'll let hubs know about keeping the grass/weeds cut down. They are in an area that has their coop and some yard space for them when they're not out in back yard. It's fenced in so they can't get out and are covered from the hot sun.
    We have a chicken that is a polish? She has black/white feathers on her head. She's quite social, is even attracted to our dog. I think she might be my favorite . There are two others one is red and other one reddish but gold feathers on her. We have two that constantly pick on our little one with feathers on her head. They had pecked her so much we had to get awful smelling medicine to heal it and stop them from pecking her. Why do they do that? It's just those two that do the pecking. The reddish chickens don't bother the little one. I caught one of peckers pecking on little one other day in the coop. I took her out so she couldn't be pecked anymore, was this wrong thing to do? I'm really learning here. I have come to care for these little gals quickly. Have to admit the two that pick/peck on little one are not my favorites and don't seem to want to have anything to do with us compared to other three which are quite social. If you decide to reply please do so to my email address. Thanks ahead of time. Happy week

  • Anonymous

    This morning, I found fOundle the crop of my hen hard like a stone, I gave her water and massaged her crop softly,it is getting very soft now,I hope she gets well soon.

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  • Leah Milton

    What probiotics do you use?

    • I typically provide the chickens with a bit of plain vanilla yogurt with probiotics or I supplement their drinking water with Merrick’s Blue Ribbon Poultry Electrolytes. This product contains direct feed microbial in the drinking water. Hope that helps.

  • Anna Gregg

    I have 3 chickens and am new to raising these creatures! One is 10 weeks old the other two are 8 weeks old. They have been in a rabbit hutch at night until their new home is completed. We put up a temporary stick for them to roost on and it was ‘secured’ with two rubber bands….all was fine for about a week then the stick fell down. I realized a couple days later that the rubber bands were missing and deducted that one or two of the chickens had ‘eaten’ them. I have consulted with a friend who is a vet but would like the opinions of people here as well. He said to leave it as it’s better for it to be left in the crop instead of them trying to ‘pass’ it and that over time it should break down. I am giving them grit and am told that, that should help. Has anyone here experienced this and can you offer any advice? Thank you.

    • Hi there! I agree. I think they will breakdown or be passed. I would not worry about it. Chickens are pretty resilient. Keep me posted with everything.

      • Anna Gregg

        I haven’t seen any evidence/not that I’m looking that closely! & I haven’t seen them to have any ill effects from eating those rubber bands. I am guessing that all is fine. They are growing, eating good organic food (no rubber bands) and I expect to get good eggs in about 4 to 6 weeks.

  • Naomi Aksu

    This is such an informative post & gives me some hope for my Veronica. She is the head chick in my free range flock (backyard pets), 2.4 years old & never a day of illness. On Sunday she was looking really poorly and when we picked her up brown liquid poured from her mouth,We realised immediately
    by the foul smell it was sour crop. We gave her a little olive oil, massaged the crop & then emptied her by tilting her forward…so much came up, bugs, grass, mealworms & loads of fluid. She seemed better but by Monday morning it was again full so we took her to the vet who gave probiotics, antibiotics & fluids. We spent all day Tuesday looking after her, stuff was still coming up & horrible smell when massaging the crop. We fed her live yogurt through a syringe as she stopped eating. This morning we have taken her back to vet & they cut crop open, cleaned it out & flushed it. She has lost quarter of her body weight in 2 days 🙁 They checked what came out under microscope, lots of bacteria but no fungal infection. Have sent her home with 5 days of anti biotics & I have made her a crop bra as they think the muscles are damaged. Praying she will recover now, she is such a character & one of our family.

    • Sending you healing thoughts for your Veronica. It is never easy to deal with them when they don’t feel good. I hope she makes a full recovery.

      • Naomi Aksu

        She is still not well. She is drinking but hardly eating a thing. Its 6 days now & she weighs nothing 🙁 Went back to vet & they gave nystatin which we started yesterday but her crop seems fine now, no liquid or smell. She is happier as we put her back with her sisters. They are being lovely to her, no pecking & even cleaning her feathers for her. She is more active today & started making a little noise (she has been silent for days), she also dug around a bit & looked like she ate bits from ground but wont touch any food we offer. Any suggestions? I don’t know what else to do & she can’t survive much longer without food.

      • Thank you for the update. Some things you might try to feed her if you haven’t already would be soft bread soaked in olive oil, scrambled eggs or even dried mealworms that have been soaked in water to make them soft. I sure hope she pull through all of this with your love and care. Keep me posted.

      • Any updates?

      • Naomi Aksu

        Unfortunately she passed away a couple of days after my last post 🙁 I don’t really know why because her crop was no longer smelling or filling up but she hardly ate a thing, just drank water. We tried her with some yogurt through a syringe but she hated us doing it so we stopped. The night before she died she seemed a bit better, making some noise & even going for a little walk with her sisters. I think there was an underlying issue. We buried her under the tree she liked to forage & the same day we hatched 8 new baby chicks…bitter sweet. xx

  • Thank you for explaining ‘crops’. I had had no idea. We keep just 8 to 10 chickens in a largeish chicken run (limited free range – giving them green grass/weeds every day). We raised two Barnavelders (i.e. our foster mum chooks raised them) from bought fertile eggs. (These are the only Barnavelders we have ever had.) Both grew up to have fairly large ‘crops’. Then one of them, her crop enlarged and enlarged – I thought it must be a tumour – until it was really swinging/hanging down; obviously, I now know, this was a pendulous crop. I wish I had known; maybe I could have saved her; she got really sick, huddled all day; I thought I’d have to put her down but then she died. Her sister, the other Barnavelder, had been okay but over the past month her crop has been enlarging and it looks like it is going to go the same way. She is not sick yet. I will try some of the things you suggest. I have two questions, 1) are Barnavelders more likely than other hens to have ‘crop’ problems? and 2) apart from adding more grit and a bit of cider water to their diets, would soaking their food (cracked corn, wheat and Eggs4Sure) in water before feeding help them digest it? NB I would rather not isolate her to get her better, as the only way to isolate her would be to put her in a small cage; I’d rather try treating her as above with diet, but keep her amongst all the other chooks, for the time being. I also need to avoid unnecessary vet’s bills.

    • You are most welcome. Glad to be of help. Yes, you can try softening her food, but mostly with crop issues sometimes they need to be emptied by a vet. If your girls free-range, it is not impossible that there could be long grass stuck in the crop. If you use straw in your coop, that could also be an issue too. Some chicken like to eat the straw and it gets stuck in their crops. Keep me posted with things, I hope she gets better, and crop issues are no more prominent in one breed than the other.

      • Thanks Melissa. I’ve got her on apple cider vinegar-water, more grit in food and soaking all food (wheat, corn and Eggs4Sure) and will keep the green feed away from the chooks for a few days and see how she goes. She seems to be quite well, I just don’t want her crop to get any larger. If it is a bit large (as it is now) i.e. there is some blockage in there, do you think that is okay? i.e. would it be painful to her?

      • How is she?

      • No real improvement. I’ve been massaging her crop, it is not hard at all but the size of a large orange. (Larger than a tennis ball.) It is soft. I wonder, I had changed their food a few months ago to add more cracked corn and whole wheat, to the Eggs4Sure (which is all small ground stuff and tiny bits of corn). I reckon those big grains might be the problem. I should have thought of that. But what do you think?

      • She’s still not well. Her crop is larger and when I massage it, I can feel grains inside it (like undigested corn or something). She’s still walking around etc. and drinking (and I think eating). I am still hoping she will come good.

      • I hope so too. If you have a vet nearby they might be able to help. She might require their interventions.

      • Sorry I forgot to get back to you here on Disqus. Guess what? We saved our lovely girl who was croppy. Her crop had been huge but with the cider vinegar, massaging her in the mornings (and moving that lump around – it felt just like a beanbag!), and also soaking her food in hot water (to half-cook it) and not feeding her the larger grains any more, she came completely good. It took about 1 – 2 weeks of that diet to fix her. Now she is busy laying again and very happy. Thank you very much for your help. She would have died, otherwise. Cheers, Sal

      • This makes me so happy. I am just thrilled.

      • … and soft bread soaked in olive oil. I’ll let you know what happens.

  • Gem usher

    Hi, I could really do with some help / advice regarding one of my hens. She has had a swollen crop for a few weeks now. I have researched online endlessly about treatment including making her sick. Unfortunately I’ve tried this quite a few times and she never brings anything up! I’ve taken her out of the run so that she just has water for a few days. Her crop seems slightly smaller in the mornings but still swollen. It’s not hard and more like fluid and I can feel lots of little bits in there like grit. Ive tried giving her natural yoghurt and wet food but nothing seems to be working!? I’m not sure what else I can do? She is still eating, drinking and laying at the moment but I worry she will start to deteriorate soon 🙁

    • Hi there Gem, thanks for your comment. It is quite possible that nothing is wrong with her crop. Usually crops that have issues get to be as large as tennis balls. If it is golf ball size, that is normal. It is also normal to feel the grit in the crop and also a bit of squishiness too. I’m glad to hear it is not hard. I would keep an eye on her and see how her crop feels first thing in the morning. If she has not eaten yet, it should be pretty flat against her chest. Good luck and keep me posted.

      • gem

        Hi, thank you so much for your reply. sorry for my late reply – I have been giving birth to my second daughter! 🙂 So i have since taken my hen to the vets and they thought she may have a yeast infection so they gave her medication for one week. Unfortunately This did not work and she still has a large crop! Some days it does seem to get smaller but most of the time it is very large. I am so confused? After lots of research I am starting to think that it is pendulous crop as she has had it for months now! She is still laying every day and has a bright red comb. I am now thinking that i should try a crop bra? I can only find one place that sells these online but they are in america and I am in the UK. Any tips on how to make one?? My only other concern that she does have a continuous bald spot on her chest which the vet thinks is from the oversized crop irritating her. Help?!? Any other ideas would be much appreciated?

      • Congrats on the birth of your daughter! Yahoo! I would check on some of the chicken forums and see if there is a source. Also, reach out to Louise’s Country Closet. I bet she’d do a custom order for you to help. She is awesome. Keep me posted and I hope you are getting some Mamma sleep.

      • Gem

        Hi Melissa. I have been on sooo many forums! Her crop is constantly squidgy like dough and her chest feather are all gone! I feel terrible as I really don’t know what to do now ☹️

      • Do you think she is broody? Sounds like she could have a broody patch on her chest…….

  • Gem Usher, I can tell you because my hen had the exact same problem. Previously a hen had had the same problem and I’d thought it was a tumour or something and she’d died. Then when her sister got the same problem I looked it up here and discovered it was ‘crop’ and Melissa advised me to give her a bit of apple cider vinegar in her water every day, which I did. And she said to massage her crop in the mornings, which I did. Her crop felt just like you describe – i could feel the undigested bits of grain in there, just like massaging a wheatbag. So I also did what I used to do for my hens: went back to Eggs4sure (instead of adding whole-wheat and cracked corn into the mixture) AND started soaking their Eggs4sure in boiling water for half an hour (to slightly cook it) before feeding it to the hens. Eggs4sure is a premix of grit and grains but the corn in it is finer than the bags of cracked corn you buy, and it has a lot of chaffy stuff mixed in as well that once soaked is a bit porridgy. Anyway, after 4-5 days the croppy hen got better enough to run away when I massaged her and she fully recovered. She (and her sister) is a large hen and naturally has quite a large crop, and being a large hen I think when given very large bits of grain she just gobbles them up and then can’t digest them. Whereas all the other hens (all of which are smaller and none of which have ever got crop) can’t gobble up those large grains so don’t get crop. I may add that prior to them getting crop, I had switched from the usual finer mix of Eggs4Sure to mixing in those bags of corn and wheat. I had done that for cost reasons but obviously it was a bad idea! Now the hens are all on Eggs4sure only (plus vegie scraps) and the hen doesn’t get croppy any more.
    ANYWAY I hope that is helpful. i.e. 1) if you’re feeding her large grains, stop. 2) Soak her food at least for a while, until she stops being croppy. 3) a spoon of apple cider vinegar in water until she stops being croppy. 4) massage the crop each morning until she’s well. BUT please read Melissa’s other comments on this page, in case your crop problem is caused by something else.

    • Thanks so much for sharing this with us. So glad your hen is better.

  • REBECCA,L Chou

    I NEED HELP!!!!!!! My 7 month old chicken loves to eat grass. However, I usually can smell a strange odor wafting from her beak. It smells a bit like insect repellent. I’m very worried.. she doesn’t seem to have an enlarged crop.. (I think). Also, whenever she drinks a lot of water, she seems to “drool”. I’ve read that it’s normal, but I;m just checking. PLEASE HELP!!! Thanks.

    • Hello, sometimes chickens do over indulge in water and what you are describing is normal. Not sure about the smell you are describing. If she is eating normally, has normal stools and is laying eggs regularly, than I am less prone to worry. If you do feel something serious is going on, then I always advise taking them to the vet.

  • REBECCA,L Chou

    Also, any way to make my chicken plumper? Not that we want to eat them! She just seems a bit skinnier, but she is still laying.

    • Chickens typically are not very plump unless they are meat birds. There are quite a few things that can cause weight loss including worms. If you are concerned, I would take her to the chicken vet for guidance.

  • Hunter Jackson

    HELP! my chicken keeps moving its crop (chest) and has hurt her foot. Her name is Ethel and shes a silver-laced wyandotte, we only got her around 6 months ago. When you feel her chest, it feels like it is soft and squishy but i know thats because she has eating but she always moves it like its dislocated, shes been doing this for a while but i just thought it was natural. As for her foot I know that it has only just started to hurt her (fr around two to three days) as she continues to hop on it. please someone help i’m desperate

    • Based on this comment and your one about her vomiting when you pick her up it sounds like there is a blockage in her crop or further along in her digestive tract. My best advice would be for you to take her to a vet who can care for her. She may need her crop emptied and further diagnostic testing that is beyond our abilities as backyard chicken keepers. As for her foot, have you checked on the bottom of the foot pad for bumble foot or an obvious injury/cut/thorn?

  • Hunter Jackson

    she has also been very sick lately as she vomits whenever you pick her up now

  • REBECCA,L Chou

    Thank you so much for your last comments! They provided me with MUCH help! The same chicken is better, but is it normal for the crop area to be a bit firm? Also, she hasn’t been laying eggs for three days now, and she looks a bit slow. She is still eating and drinking, but I’m really worried about her. I’m very scared that she is sick, and I have no clue what illness it might be!
    🙁 I’ve realized that we do have a vet very close to us for emergencies, but help from you would be my first go- to. Thanks.

  • REBECCA,L Chou

    Please… she seems to not really have a diet anymore 🙁 I really need some help..

    • Rebecca, I think you need to take this chicken to the vet. If you think she is sick, then you really should bring her for an evaluation to get a proper diagnosis and treatment. Online resources can only help so much. Nothing can replace the expertise of a veterinarian.

  • Hunter Jackson

    Hello, its Hunter Jackson again. Thankyou for the wonderful advice. I fear my chickens leg is paralyzed because she hops around on it and doesnt show any emotikn when i do anything with it

    • Oh no, it is quite possible that could be happening. I would recommend you take her to a vet that treats chickens. She could have injured her leg, slipped a tendon or broken it. It sounds like she needs to have a physical exam and further diagnostic work up.

  • On Time Typing

    I am not being critical of the recommendation that Hunter take her chicken to the vet, and I’m not a callous person, either, but I am realistic. Most of us don’t have money coming out our ears and many of us find it hard to make ends meet without vets’ bills. So if you’re a bit short of money, then unless your chicken is very much beloved, to spend $100 or maybe much more on a vet’s treatment, when the chook is only worth $10 or $15, doesn’t make much sense. And if she’s in pain and you can’t fix her and can’t pay a large vet’s bill then you’d be better off putting her down humanely. I’ve had to do this myself with our chickens before. One broke her leg between some logs; I tried to splint it and tried everything to fix it but it wasn’t any good; I had to put her down. A vet may have been able to fix her but would have charged $300 or $400 or more to do so and I didn’t have that kind of money. So Melissa, this post may make you angry but taking into account the reality of people’s situation, as well as what would be best from the chook’s point of view, what do you think?

    • This comment does not make me mad. You are just sharing your option. The cost of taking a chicken to the vet greatly varies from office to office. We are fortunate to have vets nearby that are chicken keepers and only charge $25 for a sick visit. As our chickens are our pet, this is well worth it for my family. These chickens are our pets and we take care of like we do our cats or dogs. Sometimes, although rare, that means taking them to the vet.
      I think it is also important for folks to realize that I am a backyard chicken keeper and I don’t have all the answers to your questions or issues that arise. In fact, often chicken problems stump the best of vets too. That being said, there is a inherent liability of me trying to help people by responding to their comments. Often I cannot see the chickens, the symptoms are vague and multiple which prevents me from knowing exactly what is going on in other people’s flocks, but I do know that a vet visit is often the best advice for those who are trying to figure out what is wrong with a sick or harmed chicken as opposed to culling a bird. I will always suggest going to the vet before culling because there is always a chance that a chicken can be treated successfully. Most vets will also help people to put down their chicken if need be, because some people are not willing to cull a chicken in the backyard. I also encourage folks to have necropsies done on their chicken, so they learn the exact cause of death.
      Everyone’s situation is different. There are many ways to care for backyard chickens. People posting questions in the comments are asking me for my opinions and thoughts. I am always happy to help. I like to think folks ask me what I would do because over the years they have come to identify with me, my family, the way we care for our flock. If folks prefer an open dialogue with lots of advice from many backyard chicken keepers, then I would suggest they check out popular backyard chicken membership forums. If you ask one question, you will get many answers from lots of folks.

      • On Time Typing

        Thank you for your well-thought out reply, Melissa. I’m glad you took my comments in good faith. You’re lucky with your local vet; I tell you what, if I had access to a vet who’d only charge $25 for a consultation I’d definitely be seeking a vet’s advice next time I have a sick chicken. However, it’s a bit more expensive around here. Thank you.

  • You know, it is hard to tell. She could also just need a good molt come fall to become her glorious self again. Sometimes the tips of the feathers are still in the skin and their bodies think that there is still a feather attached. I can tell you that Tilly lived many more years with her pendulous crop. It’s not impossible at all.

  • Absolutely! Laying eggs is always a great indicator of chicken health. She’ll probably be just like my Tilly was. She lived a long life pendulous crop and all.