Thursday, June 12, 2014

Chicken Crop Trouble

UPDATE ON THE CROP TROUBLE: Although the chicken was always pooping regularly, the crop problem didn't go away.  That is, the blockage appeared to be toward the back end, and internal.  We ended up having to cull the chicken at about 8 weeks.  Culling is an unfortunate but inevitable part of raising livestock, and has to be done when the quality of life of the animal begins to decline.  We updated the flow chart below with additional steps one can take before resorting to culling, but, as in our case, they don't always work.

But, for a happier note, read on!


Last week marked the first time we were able to enjoy fresh garden-grown veggies this year (excluding the dandelion and mallow we've been eating from the yard since April).  It also marked the completion of several chicken-related projects, which we'll cover in upcoming posts.  Some of those projects became top priority when it became clear that the chickens were outgrowing their expanded brooder box much faster than the fall batch did. (Due in part, no doubt, to the fact that there are ten more chickens this spring!)

Although this post is mainly about chickens, we couldn't help but include a picture of our first spring produce: radishes and green beans!  The latter actually came from our seed sprouting experiment, and grew in pots outside our bedroom window. We've never had green beans this early before!

For the most part, the chickens are happy and healthy, and some even seem to be getting used to their weekly weigh-in on Tuesday nights.  Actually, as of the writing of this post, there is only one chicken on the fritz--one of the McMurray Pioneers has an impacted crop.  So, we had to ask ourselves, 'what does one do when one has a chicken with an impacted crop?'

There are options ranging from isolating the chicken from food all the way up to surgery.  The flow chart below summarizes, in a simplified way, a collection of the advice from various places on the internet.  There are additional considerations if the impacted crop becomes sour or pendulous, so don't take the chart as gospel and do some additional reading up on the matter!

These are the most instructive videos we found on how to "vomit" a chicken (be sure to read the comments for improvements on the technique shown), inject water or oil into the crop (see also part 1), and perform crop surgery.  The key indicators seem to be a change in the size/feel of the crop and whether or not the chicken is pooping, which indicates that things are passing through the digestive tract.

Here's our troublesome chicken.  You can see her accentuated crop hanging down between her neck and feet.  This picture is after having 'vomited' her the previous night.  Not having an appropriate needle, and since her crop was already full to bursting, we skipped right to the 'vomit' stage in the chart.

Through the process, we also tried giving her a little R&R, away from food and other chickens.  We had never seen her attempt to fly, so we figured this setup would be fine while we were away at work for the day.  When we got home, she was in here, just like we left her in the morning.

We soon discovered, however, that finding her in the tote when we got home was merely a coincidence.  She had clearly been wandering around the kitchen, dining room, and office all day.  On the plus side, her digestive tract seems to be working just fine now.  Fortunately, she stayed off the carpet! 

A labyrinth of wood scraps makes it a little harder for her to escape the tote, but still gives her some light.  Unfortunately, she's an even better flyer than we thought, and managed to burst up out of the tote through the labyrinth.  Looks like we'll have to set something a lot heavier on top.  We haven't made a point of naming any of the chickens beyond a simple description of their appearance or what breed we think they are, but this one has certainly earned the moniker 'Trouble.'  Fortunately, she'll only be causing it for another six weeks or so.
After a day of isolation, her crop seems to be decreasing in size, she's still active and alert, and she seems to be pooping properly.  But she doesn't take kindly to spending her time in the kitchen, instead of outside with the rest of the chickens (and the food).  We'll update this post if things take a turn for the worse, but for now it looks like Trouble will be able to rejoin the flock in a few days.

How do you deal with impacted crops in your chickens?  Do you use a proper poultry needle when flushing the crop, or do you get by with an eyedropper?  Let us know in the comments section below!

1 comment:

  1. Funny story! Trouble seems to be a good name for her....and fortunately she didn't poop on the carpet! We have had a chicken with an impacted crop before, and we tried to vomit her, we thought with some success...but she ultimately died. Good luck with her!