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Digestive Problems


Impacted crop

The crop is a part of the oesophagus (food pipe) where the initial stages of digestion can occur. The crop is found at the base of the neck where you can sometimes feel the contents whether they are food, grit or water.

There are two common conditions of the crop: crop impaction and sour crop.

Crop impaction is where there is a problem with either the crop or the proventriculus (the stomach) where food fails to move from the crop to the stomach. There are two potential causes for this obstruction, either there is a foreign body which is blocking the passage of food such as string/plastic or long grass or the second possible cause can occur when the normal muscular contractions fail and movement of food is prevented from passing into the digestive system. Such causes can be problems with the nervous system which controls the muscular contractions; one such condition is Mareks disease.

These birds present as dull, with little or no appetite, and have a firm impacted crop.

The treatment can involve giving the bird supportive care such as fluids and hoping that the problem resolves itself but ideally surgery under a local anaesthetic to remove the offending material followed by washing the inside of the crop with sterile saline is recommended.

If your chicken has an enlarged crop it is important to ensure it has not recently eaten as after feeding, chickens often have an enlarged crop which shrinks back down as the food is digested. If you think your chicken has an impaction, monitor the size of its crop over several hours to prevent unnecessary surgery.

If the obstruction is not caused by a foreign body but instead by motility problems, then even with surgery the condition can reoccur.

Prevention is as always much better than the cure. Prevent your chickens from accessing foreign materials such as string/plastic and your birds are not given access to very long grass. It is important that adequate grit is provided for your birds to help digest the feed and grass ingested.


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Oral Canker

Oral Canker is a condition which can be found in a wide variety of birds and most commonly in pigeons.


It is caused by a motile protozoal parasite called Trichomonas gallinae.

This parasite can cause caseous lesions of the mouth, pharynx, oesophagus and in certain circumstances, further down the digestive tract.  These lesions can become extremely extensive.

This causes the birds to stop eating and drinking, in severe cases the extensive nature of the lesions combined with not eating and drinking leads the chickens to die.


Diagnosis is often based upon clinical signs but wet smears can be examined under the microscope to confirm clinical suspicions. Speak to your vet.


The treatment traditionally involved the use of a drug called Dimetridazole, however, this drug is no longer available or licensed for use in the UK.

The affected chicken in these photos was treated with Metronidazole, this is a UK licensed medication but is not used in poultry therefore it had to be prescribed under the rules of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate cascade. This also means that any eggs the chicken may lay during treatment and for a specified period after treatment would need to be discarded. Her eggs must never be sold for human consumption. The owner of the hen was extremely pleased with the outcome and has supplied us with plenty of photos to monitor the hen’s progress.


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Sour Crop

Sour crop is a yeast infection in the crop leading to thickening of the crop wall, dilation of the crop and birds losing condition and possibly dying. Sour Crop is caused by a disruption of the normal bacteria that inhabit the crop with an overgrowth of Candidia (a fungal species) often occurring.

The crop is a part of the oesophagus (food pipe) where the initial stages of digestion occur. You will find it at the base of your chickens neck and you can sometimes feel the contents whether it is food, grit or water. We frequently get phone calls from anxious owners who have birds which appear off colour and have an enlarged crop. These chickens have often stopped eating and are dull with bad breath and they will also have large fluid filled crops.

There are two common conditions of the crop: crop impaction and sour crop.

The route cause is often difficult to determine but you should check the condition of your feed store and always ensure your chickens have fresh feed. Bizarre diets and mouldy food are thought to be potential causes of Sour Crop.

Treatment is also difficult as there is no specific treatment for sour crop. The use of copper sulphate has been successful but this must be carried out under veterinary supervision. Manually emptying the crop is difficult and the underlying fungal/yeast infection needs to be controlled. The crop can also become impacted, in which case removing feed and manually massaging the crop can be of use.

In many cases a dilated crop is difficult to treat and the prognosis is not good. This treatment involves draining the crop. One method, which we do not recommend, is to turn the bird upside down and let the fluid be regurgitated however there is a real risk of choking with this treatment. Chicken Vet recommends the use of local anaesthetic and to drain and wash the crop with sterile saline. (This is a veterinary procedure).

Although the exact cause for this condition has not yet been fully determined you can use antibiotics, which will kill off the friendly crop bacteria. Therefore using a prebiotic such as Beryl’s Friendly Bacteria may help restore the normal crop bacteria. This will coat the lining of the crop leaving less room for fungi to grow. Use Beryl’sFriendly Bacteria 48 hours after the end of the antibiotic course.

Furthermore, your vet may prescribe an antifungal that can be used to control the fungal overgrowth after surgery.

This condition commonly recurs often due to the fact that there may be an underlying cause that can be difficult to determine.


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