It’s been crazy around our farms lately to say the least! Unfortunately, that has meant a bit of a hiatus on the blog and vlog front. There is a ton to catch up on, but for now I’m starting with the next item in the “Chicken Saga”.
Dad noticed a few days ago that a chicken had a bulge on her chest. She didn’t seem to mind him palpating it, squishing it around, but had no idea what it was. So when I got back from vacation we looked at it – no idea. So I resorted to my trusty Facebook chicken groups and came to the conclusion that it was “sour crop”.
This article provided a good overview for the crop and what was going on in our chicken. This article says that it’s a bacteria called Candida albicans, which also causes the more heard-of “thrush”. I’ve also seen where it’s considered a fungus. Bacteria, fungus, who knows. At this point all we knew is that it needed taken care of.
And, unfortunately, that meant we had to make the chicken up-chuck. BLEH!!!
Strangely enough, horses and chickens are similar in the fact that they do not have a gag reflex – meaning, if their stomachs (or crops) are upset, they can’t release the gas, bloating, impacted food, etc., by vomiting. With horses, you generally insert a tube down their nose, esophagus, and into theirs stomach, sometimes pump water or oil, and some of the fluid will come out. For chickens – you do a little “dance” and hope that while squeezing them you don’t kill them.
It wasn’t easy. I looked up a video and it definitely seemed easy watching them, but we were both scared of what we were doing to this poor chicken, albeit to save her life, so my timidity in squishing her neck (and hearing the occasional weird squawk) took us longer than the video to induce vomiting. Sure enough – some sort of greenish liquid started coming out of her beak. We tried again the next day and after messing around for a few minutes without her relieving anything, we gave up because we felt so bad squishing her crop around.
It was recommended to add apple cider vinegar and/or probiotics such as plain yogurt to her diet. We had some electrolytes and probiotics left over from chick-hood and put that in the chickens’ water. Hopefully this helps to clear her up, but we will probably have to continue trying to get her to vomit for a few days, or as long as her crop is enlarged. Probiotics are good for general health and digestion anyway. With all that “bad” bacteria in her system, she needed “good bacteria” to fight back and replenish her natural good bacteria.
One concern that I haven’t found an answer for is whether or not “sour crop” is contagious. I haven’t seen that it is, but bacteria and fungus can both be contagious, so it worries me. The probiotics/electrolytes in their water will help all the chickens and I may look at doing some oregano oil (used properly, with moderation, essential oils are a natural anti-bacterial/anti-fungal option and help ward off anything “bad”). Supposedly apple cider vinegar is also beneficial for general health as well as helping with sour crop and other maladies. I may see about offering some water with ACV with their plain water. I found this article while researching ACV and oregano oil options if you would like to read more.
Something to note – we did not consult a veterinarian, and while this may alarm many people, self-assessing and treating animals on the farm (and on the fly!) is quite common. I don’t take this kind of animal husbandry lightly, but a $3 chicken isn’t really worth a $50 vet bill, or let alone a several-hundred-dollar bill for surgery. If we can treat her, we will. We want to give all our animals their best life. But if she is too far gone we will have to make a hard decision. The plus side is that with access to the internet there is a wealth of information and resources out there. Granted, it takes careful research and action, but used smartly, we can apply this information to our livestock, usually with good results. It also helps that between my dad and myself we have nearly 90 years of animal husbandry work in our history. We are new to chickens but not new to livestock care, so we have learned over the years what we can accomplish ourselves and when we need to consult a veterinarian.
How about you – have you ever dealt with “sour crop” or anything similar? What did you do? Any suggestions for what else we should do? Do we need to worry about the rest of the flock being “infected”? Let us know in the comments or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org !