Sour Crop & Impacted Crop (or Crop Bound)
As with all animal husbandry the best philosophy to adopt is “prevention is better than cure”.
What is the Crop
The chicken’s crop is located right beneath the neck against the breast and just right of the centre.
When a chicken eats the food goes into the crop, which extends to accommodate the food and, especially with young chicks, can be easily seen protruding after the bird has eaten.
The crop is like a store where the food starts to soften before being passed down to the small stomach and gizzard where the food is broken down and digested.
When a hen takes in food, it is initially stored in the crop or holding area of the digestive system, before it goes through the glandular stomach (proventriculus) into the gizzard for grinding priot to digestion.
The crop is in the breast area and if you pick up a hen that has just eaten grain, you can feel the grains in the crop.
From here food passes to the glandular stomach where secretions moisten and begin to break it down. It passes to the gizzard which has strong muscular walls which contract to grind up the grains using grit as we would teeth.
It is a vital organ and when keeping chickens you need to keep a close eye on your birds’ crops to make sure they are working properly. A well working crop should be empty when the chicken wakes in the morning, there should be no strange smells emanating from the crop and the crop should fill during the day while the birds eats
The Two Main Crop Problems in Chickens
The two most common crop problems are sour crop and impacted crop. Impacted crop is also known as being crop bound.
Sour crop is caused when the crop doesn’t empty fully overnight and as a result the food ferments within the crop causing a fungal infection. You can identify sour crop by checking the crop before the bird eats in the morning and if it is sour crop the crop will be watery or squishy like a balloon and if you open the bird’s beak a foul smell will emanate from it.
Crop Bound with Impacted Crop
Impacted crop (aka as being crop bound) is similar in that the crop does not empty overnight but in the morning it will feel hard and swollen, like a golf ball.
In both cases the bird is likely to seem lethargic, will lose weight and may make strange head movements due to the discomfort of the crop.
Avoiding Crop Problems
In order to avoid crop problems you should make sure that along with pellets there is an ample supply of poultry grit available for your chickens.
The grit breaks up the food in the crop and without it the food cannot be broken down and digested, the calcium in the grit also benefits laying birds.
Long grass should be cut down as this can compact in the crop and stodgy foods such as bread and pasta should be fed sparingly as treats as these can also cause a compaction.
In addition on a monthly basis add apple cider vinegar (acv) to the water supply and make sure your birds are fully wormed as this also helps to keep the bird healthy and prevent health problems generally.
Don’t use the apple cider vinegar you buy from the supermarket – the right sort is the type sold for horses. Just put about 5ml (a teaspoon full) into a litre of water. You can buy apple cider vinegar from farm shops, equestrian centres or online.
Further Articles on Poultry Illnesses & Ailments
- Bumblefoot in Chickens – A Guide to Bumblefoot
- Crop Problems in Chickens – Chicken Crop Problems
- Impacted or Bound Crop in Chickens – A Guide
- Keeping Chickens Healthy – A Guide
- Poisonous Plants Toxic to Poultry – North America
- Red Mite – Identifying & Treating Red Mite
- Sour Crop in Chickens – A Guide