Poultry Problems: Sour Crop

I was once a total geek for avian medicine. What 18 year old girl ask for a book regarding avian genetics for her 18th birthday? THIS GIRL. I know that book cover to cover now. I’ll admit I still find a certain pleasure in playing Mystery Diagnosis with birds or just general research. But either way, I know a lot. Not to brag or anything, but chances are that if you have a question regarding birds… I have a detailed answer (does that mean I’m willing to answer all your questions? yes and no… I love to share, but I have limited time to sit down and discuss…). While my interests have shifted, I still dabble and research, and why on earth would I ever not spread my brilliance (now I’m getting arrogant)? That being said, expect and avian brain child from me now and again, like this…


While cleaning coops today I stumbled on a rather ill bird. Yuppy, the white Old English, was formerly the image of stride and confidence as his lustrous feathers shivered in the air with each step. The poor chap exhibited classic symptoms of distress: huddling, isolation, lethargy, drooped tail, dark face. Upon further examination, his body temperature was very low, his weight had rapidly dropped, and he vomited thick, slimy mucous. Two weeks earlier his coop-mate suffered the same symptoms but to a much more severe level. Bird number 1, Cock-a-doodle-Doozle, had slipped into shock with a plummeting body temperature, blackened comb, emaciation, weakness, and exhaustion. Surely, his days were numbered. Much to my surprise he survived after 5 days of supportive therapy alone. So my dear Yuppy is now in the house for the same diagnosis: the creepy crud. I’m quite baffled at what is ailing them. I’m drawn to believe it’s some sort of poisoning, MDV, or some crazy illness I have never encountered in my coop.

But that’s not the point… just a story… Yuppy vomited and I instantly thought of Sour Crop…

Sour Crop is generally caused by a pH imbalance of the digestive organ, the crop. The crop is a warm, moist environment, and under healthy conditions food passes through quickly and the bacterial level is under check. The crop temporarily stores and lubricates food before it enters the proventriculus (the “true stomach” in birds) where chemical digestion occurs. I would compare it to a mammal’s mouth, except that the crop does not chew or pulverize food, it simply slimes things up. In some circumstances, the bacteria may grow unchecked and cause massive havoc. Other causes can include fungus or even blockages, but really… it’s pretty broad and treatment is the same. Treatment must be quick. Birds cannot survive with a flawed crop. In cases of sour crop, the upper chest (where the crop is found) is usually warm and full of fluid. Foul odor is almost always prevalent. If palpated or startled, it is not unusual for the bird to vomit the most disgusting liquid you’ll ever have the displeasure of seeing (seriously, it’s pretty gnar… it’s the cocktail of the devil). If a bird vomits BE CAREFUL THE BIRD DOES NOT ASPIRATE THE FLUID. You will lose the bird if this happens. I generally try to purge the crop as quickly as possible by tilting the bird forward and massaging the chest. Anyways… treatment is fairly simple. Warm water and olive oil flushes clean the crop, but are not always required. This strategy is best for impacted crops, which is a completely different rodeo. Dry mash should be offered. Avoid any fancy foods… chicken crumbles/pellets/mash only. The goal is to return the pH to normal levels and dry out the crop to some degree once it has been rinsed. So no fruits, tomatoes, cheeses, etc! A warm, stable place is necessary for recovery. Also, monitor the bird’s water intake. Oftentimes birds with sour crop will become dehydrated because they cannot keep fluid long enough to absorb it. They will drink until they vomit and repeat over and over and over again. In my experience, 1-2 days of crop woes are all I see before the bird makes a miraculous recovery. Extended illness tends to lean to the possibility that Sour Crop is the symptom of some greater, underlying disease, particularly Marek’s Disease (MDV).

Check it: I don’t update often but this site was once my pride and joy. Lots of chicken goodies at Moody’s Bantams!


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