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Crop Impaction

Other Names: Impacted Crop, Crop Binding

Crop impactions occur when there is an interference with the normal functioning of the crop, resulting in a partial or complete blockage of food passage. The chicken's crop is like a temporary storage pouch. It is an out-pocketing of the esophagus and is located just outside the body cavity in the neck region. It is where the initial stages of digestion occurs in chickens. Sometimes you can feel the contents and whether it is full or empty. When the crop is impacted, the contents will feel full.

Crop impactions may occur due to the presence of indigestible foreign substances, such as:
  • String (crafts, hay bale twine, artificial grass, carpets, etc.)
  • Long blades of grass (ornamental or pasture/yard variety)
  • Feathers
  • Skins from certain fruits (banana, persimmons, etc.)
  • Bedding or ground litter (straw, wood chips, mulch, shavings)
  • Misc plastic or metal objects
Crop impactions can also occur secondary if birds are having muscular contraction issues, since these contractions are what controls the normal movement of food through the crop. Some forms of Marek's disease are known to cause muscular contraction issues, specifically related to crop functioning.

Sour crop often occurs as a secondary complication in chickens with crop impactions.

Treatment for Crop Impactions


Treatment depends on the cause, the health status of the bird (why early discovery of this condition is ideal), and severity of the impaction. Trauma to the gastrointestinal tract often occurs as a secondary result of ingestion of foreign objects. For example, there were several cases where chickens who had ingested baling net wrap lost their tongues from ischemic necrosis. Others developed secondary septicemia and airsacculitis. When treatment is delayed, the condition rapidly worsens and leads to secondary infections, starvation, dehydration, and death.

Clinical Signs

Enlarged crop
Crop fails to empty
Reduced appetite
Increased thirst
Inactivity
Twisting neck from side to side
Open-mouth breathing
50%
Foul odor from mouth
50%
Smelly watery vomit
50%
Depression
Pasted vent
50%

Diagnosis

  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam

Treatment

NameSummary
Gentle messageGently message the chicken's crop.
Isolate patient from other members of the flock.
Provide supplemental warmth and a low-stress, quite environment. Call your veterinarian.
Adding magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) in the water and liquid molasses in the feedChristensen NH
SurgeryPerformed by your veterinarian, to remove the foreign body causing the impaction.

Support

Prevention

  • Provide birds free access to grit
  • Keep the grass mowed regularly, and make sure to remove any grass clippings and prevent the birds from accessing.
  • Always provide birds with plenty of fresh, clean water to drink.
  • Do not allow chickens access to any objects such as metal, plastic, strings, etc. even feathers which could be hazardous.
  • Do not allow chickens access to composts.

Prognosis

Outlook is good if treated early, as soon as symptoms are noticed.

Scientific References

Good Overviews

Age Range

Young birds are especially vulnerable since their gizzards are still developing.

Risk Factors

  • Allowing chickens access to grass clippings.
  • Feeding dried oatmeal and soybeans, as they swell when they absorb water which can impact the crop.
  • Feeding chickens a poor quality diet, making them crave ingestion of materials they wouldn't normally eat.
  • Leaving potentially hazardous objects where chickens can access them.