Sour Crop in Chickens – A Guide

Two Chickens - Protruding Crop in Black CockerelCauses of Sour Crop

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.

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.

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 into the gizzard for 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.

Treating Sour Crop in Chickens

To treat sour crop if it develops you should start by holding your chicken upside down with the head away from you and gently massage the crop from bottom to top so that the fluid is released.

Once this has been done mix some natural (live) yoghurt into the layers pellets or mash and feed this to the bird along with water mixed with apple cider vinegar as described below throughout the day.

You will probably need to repeat this over three days until the crop stops filling and the bacteria in the crop returns to normal. In the event the problem persists for more than a week seek a vet’s advice as a course of anti-fungal medicine may be required.

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 the crop.

Apple Cider Vinegar

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.

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