Crop Emptying Problems – Slow Crop / Sour Crop

Breeder Resources

A chick’s crop must empty completely once every twenty-four hours. If it doesn’t, there is a good chance that a sour crop could be developing in the chick. If the chick is suffering from a gas-filled crop (Candida).

Common Causes and Resolutions:

  • Until the slow crop is resolved, provide supportive health care to your pet bird.
  • Baby food is fed either too cold or too hot: The temperature of the formula should be at least 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Closely monitor the temperature with a digital thermometer.
  • Baby formula is too thick: Feeding a formula that is too thick will result in dehydration and crop stasis. On the other hand, feeding the formula to thin will prevent your chick from getting proper nutrition, potentially leading to starvation and death. The consistency of the formula fed must be appropriate for the age of the chick.
  • Dehydration of the chick – fluid replacement is a necessity to safe the life of the chick.
  • Chick is chilled: The environmental temperature for chicks ten days or older are 88-92 degrees Fahrenheit; younger chicks: 96-98 degrees F.
  • Overfeeding the chick will result in overstretching the crop. Inexperienced breeder very easily overfeed the chicks. It is important for the breeder to know when to stop feeding. In an overfed chick, the crop loses its ability to push the food from the crop into the digestive track, causing the food to remain in the crop and turning sour (bad). Breeders and vets have successfully used a crop bra to support the crop. I made crop bras out of an elastic bandage – please refer to below illustration.
  • Bacterial, viral or yeast infections are another source of crop stasis. Vinegar: A Natural Approach to Avian Management
  • Crop impaction by foreign body / material in the crop: chicks may be eating nesting substrate causing their crops to impact.
  • Sour food in the crop caused by food remaining in the crop and fresh food being fed on top of spoiling food. To prevent this, it is necessary to make sure that the crop empties once a day. If it doesn’t, add a little Applesauce or Papaya concentrate to the formula. Oftentimes this will result in the crop emptying normally. Alternatively, unflavored Pedialyte fed every two hours for the next twelve hours might help.
  • Slow crop in babies is often caused by dehydration. Offering electrolyte solutions orally (primary choice) or warmed lactated ringers solution subcutaneously (secondary solution) may help resolve that. A veterinarian or someone experienced in this procedure should demonstrate or perform. The usual procedure for oral administration is to warm the solution to 100 degrees F. and for subcutaneous administration, to hold the syringe under hot running water for a moment. Test the temperature of the solution to make sure that it is not too hot / warm before administering. Do not heat in microwave.
    • Administer: a small amount of warm water, saline solution or Maalox / Digel or Mineral Oil (vet recommended). If the crop does not empty within a few hours, add lactobacillus and/or digestive enzyme.
    • Some are offering a more diluted formula to speed digestion, but babies need concentrated nutrition; the more watery the solution is, the less calories and nutrition they will get; thus causing weakness in the chick and further lowering its natural defense system.
    • Gently massaging the crop – Crop massage is tricky and needs to be done very carefully. It is very easy to aspirate the baby in the process. Care needs to be taken NOT to push the crop UP while massaging, as this would cause the chick to aspirate the food, resulting in aspiration pneumonia or immediate death. You may want to have a vet instruct you in how to do it correctly. Many avian vets are very willing to instruct breeders in such matters.
    • Emptying / flushing the crop with gavage — this should only be the last resort as this is risky unless done by someone who is experienced and skilled in this procedure.
    • Once the crop is empty, vets and breeders may administer Pepto-Bismol, Nystatin, or Raglan syrup to help stimulate motility. Half an hour later feed some lactated ringers solution or Pedialyte mixed with some Bird Bene Bac, or other bird-specific probiotic. Another 20 to 30 minutes later, they may offer a small amount ofGerber oatmeal mixed with applesauce and bananas, baby cereal, and water – feeding less volume, but more frequently. Some breeders swear by feeding papaya to any bird with digestive problems (such as slow crop). Once motility is restored, gradually offer regular hand feeding formula.

Important Considerations:

  • Any fluids / foods to be provided should be at least 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Environmental temperatures: Chicks ten days or older: 88-92 degrees Fahrenheit; younger chicks: 96-98 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The thickness / consistency of the formula fed must be appropriate for the age of the chick. Too thick a formula will prevent food from moving down the digestive system (crop stasis); too thin will not provide enough nutrition.
  • It may be necessary for you to consult with your avian vet to assess the problem and institute life-saving measures.

Gas-filled Crop / Candida:

Summary: In unfeathered babies, a Candida-infected crop will show signs of cheese-like lesions, and a grayish-white layer covers the crop lining. The often ulcerated and inflamed wall will be thickened and opaque, making the crop puffy and abnormal looking. If you suspect your baby to suffer from this, please go to this website.

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