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Diagnosing And Treating Sour Crop In Chickens

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What is sour crop in chickens? It’s a yeast infection in the crop of your chicken that prevents your hen from digesting food. The yeast causes fermentation in the crop that produces an awful sour smell, hence the name. Without treatment, your hens could suffer serious consequences. Today we are going to talk about diagnosing and treating sour crop in chickens. 

Where Is The Crop? And What Does It Do?

Before diagnosing and treating sour crop, we need to know chicken anatomy. The crop in a chicken is below the neck in the chest area. It feels like a small empty sack in normal circumstances. 

The crop is a temporary holding place for food before it travels down to the gizzard. The crop’s primary function is to start the digestion of carbs. Due to its location and position, it is very prone to infection. 

Symptoms Of Sour Crop In Chickens

What is the sour crop in chicken symptoms? Below we have the most obvious signs. The faster you get a diagnosis, the faster your hens could be on the mend. 

  1. Squishy Crop: First thing in the morning, your hen’s crop should be empty. But if your chicken crop feels like a water balloon, this is a sign that the crop didn’t drain.  
  2. Sour Smell: The name “sour crop” gets its name from the putrid smell that comes from your hen’s mouth. The odor is almost like sauerkraut and is caused by fermenting food left in the crop. 
  3. Fluid Coming From Mouth: If your hen’s crop isn’t emptying into the gizzard, it will become too full. And when the fermenting food develops too much yeast, it will start to bubble over. People often mistake this overflow as vomit. Some people even describe it as a drooling chicken.
  4. Not Eating: Another big sign that something is wrong with your hen’s crop is that they stop eating. With a full crop, there is nowhere for the food to go. They can’t continue eating without the risk of suffocation. 
  5. Lethargic: And of course, since they aren’t eating, your hen will become weak. They might stay in the nesting boxes or separate themselves from the flock. 

What Causes Chicken Sour Crop?

Finding the cause helps choose the right path in diagnosing and treating sour crop in chickens. This part takes a little investigation because the sour crop is usually the result of another underlying illness. 

Pendulous Crop 

One leading cause of chicken sour crop is a genetic disorder called a pendulous crop. The position of the crop prevents it from draining naturally. If your hen gets sour crop regularly, you might investigate this as the cause. To prevent any more issues, your chicken will have to wear a crop bra. And yes, that is as funny as it sounds. A crop bra can be bought or made to support the crop in the correct position. Solving this issue will prevent all future problems. 

Impacted Crop

Another leading cause is the result of an impacted crop. If your hen has eaten something that can’t digest, it will stay in the crop. After a few days, any other food will begin to ferment. As a result, yeast and bacteria form into a sour crop. Luckily treatment for an impacted crop is similar to sour crop. 

Antibiotics 

If your chicken has been on antibiotics recently, all of their beneficial bacteria is depleted. Without good bacteria, your hen is more prone to yeast infections. Giving a good probiotic will resolve this issue quickly. 

Disease

In some cases, other underlying diseases can cause repeated sour crop. If your hen seems to get sour crop often, it might be worth it to visit the vet for x-rays. Ruling out deformities and other diseases will help your hen recover quickly. 

Worms

And finally, the last cause of chicken sour crop could be parasites. Certain types of worms and internal parasites cause sour crop and other digestion problems. 

How To Treat Sour Crop In Chickens

When diagnosing and treating sour crop in chickens, the first order of business is to isolate your hen. She is likely stressed and sluggish, and isolation will give your hen time to heal.

Next, you will want to stop all feeding until the crop has drained. Once you do these, you can choose a home treatment plan that works best for you. Below we have some of our favorite treatment options. 

Apple Cider Vinegar 

Sour crop is a fungal infection, so you want a natural antifungal for chickens to combat it. Putting a couple of tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar in drinking water is a great way to combat it. If your hen has stopped drinking, you can syringe feed them with a little infused water three times a day. 

Garlic Water

Garlic is another known antibiotic and antifungal. To make garlic water for chickens, you need to crush fresh garlic and place it into the water dish. After a few minutes, the garlic enzymes will penetrate the water. So when your hen drinks it, they are getting all of the great healing properties they need. 

Sour Crop Treatment Baking Soda

If there is a lot of foam coming from your hen’s mouth, their throat is likely burning. Just like heartburn from stomach acid hurts us, it will also burn your chicken. And in severe cases, it can even cause chemical burns. To reduce the acidity levels, you can make baking soda water. 

You can have a neutralizing drink by mixing a tablespoon of baking soda with a few liters of water. You can then give a few syringes a day to save your hen’s throat. 

Oregano Oil

Oregano has fantastic healing and antifungal properties to it. But it can be a little challenging to give. Ideally, you would want your hen to eat a bit to heal from the inside out. But with a sour crop, this can be difficult. 

Instead, you should use the oil of oregano and mix it into a little olive oil. The olive oil is a carrier to make it more palatable. Giving this to your hens helps reduce yeast build-up and help guide things along. 

2% Miconazole

If none of these treatments seem to work, you can go for medication. Miconazole is available over the counter in the feminine hygiene aisle. The best dosage is the 2% cream tube. And since this medication works specifically for yeast, it should kill sour crop quickly. 

To give miconazole to your hen, you want 1/2 inch cream orally for seven days. The cream won’t taste nice, but it is effective and safe for consumption. 

Vet Treatment

If your hen has had a sour crop for longer than a week, it is time to see a vet. They will better examine your bird and gently remove the infection. Many vets can do a saline flush of the crop. Or they might prescribe an antifungal such as Nystatin. 

What Not To Do

There are a few methods of curing sour crop that can have serious consequences. The primary treatment that you shouldn’t do is “vomiting” your hen. Since chickens can’t throw up, they don’t have the instinct to do it safely. Many chicken owners will swear that flipping the bird upside down and coaxing the crop to empty is the fastest cure. 

But here’s why you don’t want to do that. Many chickens aspirate on the fluid when done incorrectly. They will choke and possibly have permanent damage. Not to mention it will also come out of their nose and cause a lot of pain. 

The other treatment that a lot of people swear by is yogurt. Yogurt is beneficial for its live cultures of good bacteria that help break down the bad. But scientifically, it doesn’t work the same if you already have an infection. Adding good bacteria to an area with a lot of harmful bacteria only turns the good bad. And once you join the dark side, you don’t go back. It is better to kill all bacteria and restart fresh in this case. 

Preventative Measures

Preventing chicken sour crop isn’t an easy thing. But you can do something every day to keep your chickens healthy and digestive health up to par. Here is an excellent list of preventative measures for a happy crop. 

  • Freshwater: Giving fresh water to your chickens daily helps clear the crop and keep things moving along. If your water sits for too long, it could grow bacteria that then multiply in the crop. 
  • Grit: Every chicken needs a good quality grit. Grit helps process and grind the chicken’s food efficiently. Without enough grit, your chicken’s crop will start to slowly empty. 
  • Daily Checks: Spending a few extra minutes a day to check your flock for crop issues could save you a lot of time. The faster a problem is discovered, the more chances there are for a quick recovery. 
  • Limit Starch: Pieces of bread, pasta, and potatoes are very starchy and cause crop yeast overgrowth. 
  • Pre And Probiotics: Every well-rounded diet is complete with a high-quality pre and probiotic. These ingredients are essential for good gut health and proper digestion. 

Conclusion

Diagnosing and treating sour crop in chickens doesn’t have to be hard. With fast thinking and patience, your hen will be better in no time. But if the situation is out of control, always be sure to contact your vet. 

Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!

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