Violet, my saggy old bird, is modelling the push up halter top in camel. It is my latest invention to help empty her crop. It has a halter neck which slips over the head attached to a large piece of strong material. Two ribbons support the crop and are tied under the wings and two stop it from slipping off and are tied behind the legs.
Violet suffers from recurring impacted and sour crop due to damage caused when she was a spring chicken. Food (or another weird object your bird decides looks tasty) gets stuck in her crop (impaction) and it then sits there slowly fermenting and produces a fowl smelling fluid in the crop, called a sour crop. Birds will often stop eating as food cannot exit their body, they may stop drinking too if they are feeling really poorly. Birds with sour crop are usually spotted with what looks and feels like a water balloon hidden under their feathers. Sometimes they will move their neck around in a strange way in an attempt to remove the uncomfortable mass. If you get close enough sometimes you can smell the sour fluid on their breath.
I would recommend feeling your ladies chests every morning when you let them out, if you have a little massage and squeeze it should feel empty. If you feel a hard mass this is an impaction and needs dealing with straight away. Often an impaction goes unnoticed and is discovered too late when damage has been caused to the crop and your poor bird is half starved to death. This happened to Violet, she is usually a chunky heavy bird but her mass of feathers disguised her bare bones. It took months to get her back to a normal weight and she must have been so uncomfortable.
It is best to isolate a sick bird to stop them from being picked on, it also makes it easier for you to catch them, a cat carrier or dog crate works fine for a couple of days. Once I have isolated my sick bird there are a variety of things that I do to solve the crop issues. If the crop is impacted I would do the following things (it is easier if you have a helper to hold your chicken still):
- Syringe a tablespoon of olive oil into the beak of your chicken (a 1ml syringe works well), take care that she does not inhale it. In a circular and up and down motion use your whole palm to massage the olive oil around inside her crop and break up the impaction. Do this for five to ten minutes.
- Withhold food (provide water) for at least the morning and regularly massage the crop throughout the day, if there is no change repeat the first step. If you feel you want to give your bird some food make it a tablespoon of wet layers mash or pellets, as this is easier for them to digest and the small portion prevents the crop from getting too much larger. Little and often is best, a hungry bird can overdo it!
- If they are not eating or drinking try giving them something tempting with a high water content cut up very small so it does not take them too much effort to eat it. Mine like cucumber, grapes, strawberries and raspberries or mealworms soaked in water that they can bob for them.
- If after a few days there is no change or your bird appears under the weather visit the vet (there are specialist poultry vets at some practices). Worse case scenario they can operate on your bird but it doesn’t usually come to that. Some websites suggest you can do this yourself, please don’t! I know someone who was successful but you may not be so lucky. You may cause a lot of distress to your bird and could damage the crop permanently or cause infection and death.
If the crop is sour, I would do the following things:
- Empty the crop of its contents by making the bird sick, if you have not done this before it is important that you do it safely so the bird does not inhale while being sick. Step by step instructions with diagrams can be found by searching on google. If you don’t like this option (I admit it is really grim) skip to step 2.
- It is likely that your bird has an impaction so do as above to treat that. If you have emptied your bird’s crop you should be able to feel if they are impacted.
- Feed the bird a couple of teaspoons of plain natural yogurt to give them some good bacteria in their crop. They may eat this themselves or you may have to syringe it in (don’t expect to get it all in).
- Recently we have been putting a blue stretchy plastic bandage (which sticks to itself) over Violets chest and under her wings (3 or 4 times) to hold the crop up and allow it to empty of its sour liquid. You can buy this bandage in pharmacies and supermarkets. It does work but may need readjusting a couple of times a day and as long as your bird seems comfortable can stay on a couple of days until the crop has been empty for a couple of mornings.
- If after a few days there is no change or your bird appears under the weather visit the vet (there are specialist poultry vets at some practices). Do not worry if you cannot manage it yourself. A vet will have special soft tubes with rounded ends they can put down the throat into the crop and syringe the liquid out and they can give anti-fungal medicine to treat the sour crop.
If you also have a saggy old bird and you are a whiz with the sewing machine, handy with a pair of knitting needles or a crochet hook, you could always knock up a halter top, if you do please send me a photo. I fear I have gone too trendy with the camel fabric, maybe I should make her a selection so Violet can choose according to her mood, the weather or to complement the seasons?…