Crop Failure

I wish I would have taken a picture.  But, I didn’t.  Molly has had a gigantic, enlarged crop for at least a week. 

You’re probably wondering, “What the heck is a crop?”  I imagine it like this: Hamsters have pouches to store food, right?  A crop is like a storage pouch to hold a chicken’s food before it moves to the gizzard to be ground up.  It’s normal for the crop to change sizes during the day as the chicken eats and then digests food. has a diagram of a chicken’s digestive system if you are interested.

Back to the giant crop.  I’m not sure what caused it, but I have some ideas: Too much popcorn?  Bunches of kale that we wouldn’t eat?  Too much roaming about the yard eating grass?  Eating straw out of her coop?  I don’t know for sure, but a hen doesn’t usually have a crop so large that it starts losing feathers, does she? 

When I found the large, grapefruit-sized blob on my hen, I started freaking out.  I Googled, “chicken tumors” and narrowed it down to either sour crop or impacted crop.  There are all sorts of remedies online for both, but the most drastic is surgery.  I’m not up for doing chicken surgery myself, and as much as I love my hen, I’m not ready to lay down $100+ to have it surgically removed by the vet. 

So, I started trying other “remedies”.  I started with crop massage.  Some sites say to do it, others advise against it for fear of choking the chicken on her vomit.   I massaged Molly and inverted her several times on Sunday hoping that she would vomit and clear her crop.   She dripped quite a bit, but never vomited. 

I continued massage for several days with no success.  Instead of getting better, she actually seemed to be getting worse.  Her crop was so full that  she even started “dripping” when bending down to eat grass.  Still, after all this, she seemed in good spirits and wasn’t lethargic in the least.  Despite her cheerful demeanor, she stopped laying eggs.

Time for drastic measures (but still not surgery).  First, I stopped putting her in the yard where she could eat grass.   I added apple cider vinegar to her water.  I took away her food.  I tried to feed her yogurt.  (She wouldn’t eat it.)  Two days ago I scrambled an egg in copious amount of olive oil which is supposed to lubricate her digestive tract and served it to her.  She tasted it, but didn’t love it.  Finally, she got hungry enough to eat the egg.  The next morning, her crop was smaller, but still pretty large and filled with grain considering she hadn’t eaten solid food in a day.   So, yesterday was day two of scrambled eggs in oil.  This morning her crop was almost completely clear but still had a ping-pong ball-sized lump.  It didn’t seem hard which would indicate impaction and didn’t feel grainy like it had before, but after two days of almost no food, I was hopeful that it would be clear.  Today I let her pick the sweet corn off our eaten cobs and gave her some watermelon rinds.  I think the pieces are soft (and small) enough not to worsen her condition. 

She still hasn’t started laying, but I’m hoping for a full recovery.



Filed under urban chickens

5 responses to “Crop Failure

  1. Wow Angela, you really had me scared when I first started reading this considering that I lost my little 3 day old Golden Laced Wyandotte to an impacted crop. I beat myself up for a while over that because I detected it too late and the morning that I did detect it was when she was already on her way. I was literally THIS CLOSE to doing immediate surgery on my little 3 day old when the seconds passed and she did as well. Poor little Hope, she will be missed.

    As for Molly… I think you’re on your way to a full recovery. I’d continue with softer foods and nothing firm just yet. Stay away from long grass also. Keep up the Apple Cider Vinegar also, it’s awesome for their digestion and vitamin absorption. Maybe give he a little Poli-Vi-Sol on her scrambled egg, just a couple of drops. I have plenty if you want some so contact me.

    But remember, in a pinch if you need it, I am now fully versed in emergency crop surgery as a result of losing Hope. I just wish I never have to use it, you know. The other methods of getting them to expunge their crop by direct injection of oils down their throat is not something I think I could accomplish without outright killing the poor girl I’m trying to help so I’m going to avoid that one myself.

    Anywho, keep us updated on Molly’s recovery. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you!

  2. Glad she’s doing better, sounds like you did a great job.

    Chooks are hard, they often hide when something is up (impossible to hide that crop though!) so it can be difficult to intervene in time. Thanks for the good tips to try if it ever happens to us!

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