The crop can become impacted known as crop impaction, crop binding or pendulous crop. The result of crop impaction is that the food cannot get past the crop which means it never reaches the small intestine where it is turned from feed to useful nutrients. If you are free ranging your chickens in pasture settings, crop binding is likely to be a more common problem for you. Long grass or other vegetation that resemble stringy fiber is one cause of binding. When your chickens are out foraging, if they pick up too much long stringy grass or vegetation, they are at higher risk for pendulous crop.
When the crop is impacted, it feels “full” which means it is not sending signals to the brain to eat. In some ways, this is a good thing. If a bird does continue eating with an impacted crop, food will continue to back up in the esophagus and can actually block the windpipe and suffocate the bird. Of course, a chicken that is not eating due to crop impaction is obviously not a good thing either!
How to recognize crop impaction
When the crop is impacted, it swells up and can become hard like a golf ball. You may also notice the bird making strange movements with their head due to the discomfort that comes with an impacted crop. Since an impacted crop impedes the digestion of food and tricks the brain into thinking it’s full, it leads to starvation. Therefore, if your birds become lethargic and are losing weight, crop impaction is one possible cause.
How to treat crop impaction
You should always consult a veterinarian. However, we know the economics of this proposition are not always practical. Therefore, before consulting a veterinarian, you may want to try the following:
- Use an eye dropper or syringe to drop 3ml of olive oil, vegetable oil or liquid paraffin into the chickens beak. Let your bird tilt their head back open and close their beak quickly (just like they are drinking water) so the oil can settle in the crop area.
- Gently massage the crop to work in the oil
- Repeat steps one and two twice each day (morning and evening).
- Feed the chicken a “soft diet”. Mix a crumble or a mash with yogurt to soften the meal.
- Control the environment, if possible. Don’t let your chicken free range or have access to foraging where they’ll be ingesting pebbles, grass and other fiber from vegetation.