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Impacted Crop

By Alan Stanford, Ph.D.
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I Relied Upon Glenda L Heywood National Poultry News and
the The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow

Please see my note about Perle's crop - Alan
I no longer try to empty crops because I killed birds.

Impacted crops are not caused by your birds needing more grit. Grit is indeed necessary for birds that eat other than commercial feed; they need grit when they eat scratch grains, greens, and when they free range. Birds use grit in their gizzards to grind food; but the gizzard is far "downstream" from the crop. The crop is a kind of foyer into which all the food packs before moving into the digestive system.

Things that cause impacted crops are anything a bird eats that is too big to move into the digestive system. Some of these too big things are whole grain (especially for small birds), grapes, and greens. When free ranging birds eat greens they rip off small pieces and these pieces pass freely out of the crop. One way I caused impacted crops in our flock was letting the flock out on once long, freshly mown grass. They have no problem with long unmown grass because they can rip off little pieces. Long strands of fresh cut grass pile up in the gizzard and can't get out.

You need to flush and empty an impacted crop. You can use an eyedropper, a syringe without a needle, or a childís ear syringe. Be sure to put the dropper or syringe all the way back in the birdís mouth. There is a hole at the base of the tongue that leads to the birdís lungs. You must be way past that or you will damage your bird.

First Treatment

You can start by putting an eyedropper full of vegetable oil into the crop and then massaging the crop. This will soften the impaction. Put the dropper all the way back in the bird's mouth and slowly push out the oil. Any vegetable oil is good: olive oil, corn oil, or canola oil.


Fill the syringe and insert it as far as you can into the mouth of the chicken. Have someone hold the bird upright in front of you. Slowly and very gently fill the crop, do not over fill and get liquid into that hole at the base of the tongue. Gently press up under the chickenís breast and slide your hand up to the crop. This makes the bird open its mouth and the impacted mess will come out the bird's mouth. Push the contents up and out of the crop and out of the mouth. You can face the bird toward the ground to help empty the crop. Repeat this gentle stroking pressure until nothing comes up.

If there the crop is not empty, flush it again until it is empty.

Once the crop is empty, give another dropper of oil.

Coop the bird away from other birds so it can rest. Provide about a cup of water with 1 teaspoon terramycin dissolved in it. Give no feed.

Second Day

If the bird is droopy on the next day, put molasses in the birdís water for about four hours (1/4 cup per gallon of water). Remove the molasses water after four hours and give the bird fresh terramycin water. The molasses water will flush soured food from the birdís digestive system.

Follow Up Treatment

If the crop impacts again, repeat the flush.

Continue the terramycin for 7 days to avoid secondary infection.

After 24 hours, give only soft food for a week or so. This lets the inflamed and irritated crop recover and prevents another impaction.

The soft diet can include crumbles and chopped hard-boiled or microwaved eggs. You can feed bread if it is soaked in milk or buttermilk. Buttermilk is especially good because active culture buttermilk has good bacteria in it that help the birdís digestion.

Be sure to also give the bird some beneficial bacteria. They keep digestion going correctly and fight disease by crowding out disease bacteria. You can just mix 1-2 teaspoons per bird of ACTIVE culture yogurt with a small amount of food and give this as the only food until they eat it. You can also buy lactobacillus at health food stores, pharmacies, Wal-Mart, and Lake's Unlimited 800-634-2473.

Give no grains, no large pellets, no not soaked bread, and no grass or greens because these can cause another impaction. Feed only things that almost fall apart when wet.

Glenda Heywood likes to feed this for the week

Adding oil to the food will help avoid another impaction. Cod liver or wheat germ oil are good because they provide vitamins A, D, and E. Only add about 2% of the feedís weight.

Barb Silcott's Preventative and Followup Treatment

"If you have a bird that continually comes up with an impacted crop, once you've emptied the crop and start making your soft feed for it, add some baby food type applesauce. (Unsweetened regular applesauce should be as good.) The applesauce helps get the crop emptied a little quicker and is also acidic which helps with the bacteria problem."

"This works for sour crop, too. In fact, when we're hand-feeding parrots, we always add some baby food applesauce to the formula to prevent sour crop. Works great! With all the parrots I've hand-fed over the years, I've never had a case of sour crop. I specify baby food applesauce because it doesn't have any added sugar which just aggravates the problems."

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