I had noticed that one of my pullets had this amazingly huge crop and that it didn’t seem to ever go down – even overnight. Picking her up and palpating the crop revealed that it was overly spongy and the size of a baseball. She also had horrendous breath. These were all signs that she had sour crop.
The crop is a pocket located on the chicken’s chest that holds food before entering the gizzard where it gets ground up. Chickens like to have a full crop when they go to bed in the evening and then by morning the crop is all emptied out to get refilled again. Sour crop is basically a yeast infection in the crop. A piece of food gets stuck in the crop and the natural yeasts for the surrounding environment starts fermenting that piece of food. As more food enters the crop, the yeast multiplies until the crop just becomes this fermenting vessel. The spongy feeling is from all the trapped carbon dioxide bubbles.
Fortunately, just like with sick chicken, there are natural ways to heal a chicken with sour crop.
Some websites say that you need to empty the crop. I’m hesitant to do this because it can cause the chicken to aspirate if not done correctly and it doesn’t actually help eliminate the yeast since it’s already established in the crop. So instead I just left the food in her crop and worked on attacking the yeast and resulting carbon dioxide instead.
The first thing I did was separate her from the rest of the flock. It’s not contagious so I actually did this mainly because I needed to keep her from eating the grain-based feed which provides more food for the yeast. So into the wire dog crate she went. We kept the crate in the chicken coop so she could at least be around the other chickens.
I put some raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar in her water. The bacteria, acetobacter, that turns alcohol into vinegar, would help balance out her pH. Her food consisted of 2 scrambled eggs with olive oil and plain, whole milk yogurt twice a day. The eggs provided her with protein. The olive oil helps break down the bubbles from the carbon dioxide that the yeast creates. The yogurt helped provide additional protein and carbohydrates. The sugar in dairy, lactose, cannot be fermented by yeast so it doesn’t add onto the problem. In addition the live and active cultures in the yogurt kill and consume the yeast. This works for all yeast infections, just so you know….
We kept her on this diet for 3 days, which was long enough so that her crop was completely emptied in the morning and her breath no longer smelled bad. She’s now happily scratching and pecking with the rest of the flock.
*Disclaimer – I am not a veterinarian and this is just my experience with dealing with sour crop. It worked well for me and for others. Please consult a veterinarian if your bird is very sick.