Impacted Crop - Baseball Size - VIDEO IS READY!!


In the Brooder
9 Years
Oct 1, 2010
I noticed yesterday morning when I went out to feed the girls, that one had a gigantic ball in the front of her chest. I also noticed her cluck was very brash. I picked her up and had a look and felt her crop and it is the size of a baseball, maybe a little bigger. I remember hearing that deep brash cluck now for a while, and I never put two and two together. It must be going on two weeks, and when I picked her up, I noticed how thin she was. From reading here and there on BYC I knew immediately what it was. So I came in to read on how to go about fixing it. I have been giving oil and messaging it for the last two days, and it does not appear to be getting any better. I have withheld food since yesterday, water only. She seems to be drinking ok. I don't know exactly how packed she is, it does move around and squish a little bit, like the consistency of play-doh at the top, but gets firmer further down. I am figuring on giving it until tomorrow night. I really would hate to cull her, they all lay wonderfully, so i guess I will have to prep the O.R. and attempt to remove the blockage. Either way, starving to death is not an option and I don't think any animal should have to suffer. I have read quite a bit about the procedure on BYC and feel pretty confident that I can do it. I just don't want to cut too quick. She seems to be acting ok, but don't want her to take a sudden turn for the worse and end up dying from the surgery if I wait too long.

Their coop has wood shavings in it, so I don't know if she has been chowing on those. I did put straw in the nest boxes, maybe she is eating that. i guess it never occurred to me that they would. That would make sense though, since I put it in about 3 weeks ago.
I'll guess we'll see tomorrow night. I am able to get some local anesthetic, but what should I treat for infection prevention? I have TSC pretty close by and they have antibiotics for horses and stuff, don't know about chickens or what to even look for. I will post pics and maybe some video if any of my assistants will be available to photo/vid. Wish me luck.
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I would give it a few more days if she seem to be feeling well otherwise. Continue to massage it several times per day and I would continue to give her small pieces of bread soaked in olive oil. If the bottom is getting softer you may be making progress.

The surgery is very simple. You can use superglue to close the skin wound if necessary. It's certainly worth a try if she doesn't improve.

Good luck....
I learned my lesson about massaging the crop when it is impacted and I will never do it again. I had 2 hens who has impacted crops at just about the same time. I massages both, gave olive oil and everything else everyone mentions on this site. I know they meant well but while I was massaging one of them a lump of whatever was in her crop went past her crop and became stuck. Both had crop surgery and right away I could tell that one was going to heal and the other would not.

The one who lived was pooping and eating normally the next day. The one who had the impaction pushed further down her digestive system (by me) was lethargic and pooping green. I didn't know why she was dying so I brought her to my vet to have her put down. The vet asked me if he could do a necropsy (autopsy on an animal) and I said that he could. He called me a few days later and told me what he had found.

I know her death wasn't my fault but her death WAS my fault. Now if anyone has an impacted crop I watch them for a day or 2 and do the crop surgery.

I mean no disrespect to Three Cedars Silkies but for someone who doesn't have at least a bit of medical background this is not easy. After being cut open the wall of the crop has to be closed and then the skin has to be closed so they don't heal together in one big mess. You need long enough tweezers to reach the base of the crop etc. There are wonderful people on here who can walk her through it but personally I had a very difficult time cutting into one of my 'pets'. I'm a surgical nurse and nothing at work bothers me but working on my favorite chicken is something I won't do again unless it happens on a weekend at night again and the vet is closed and she is very sick.

Take my advice with a grain of salt.
Thanks for the info. I am a little torn on what to do. I went out today and she seems to be the same. Seems to be acting normally though. One of my concerns was the length of a tweezer type tool to get to the bottom of the crop. I mean, if I am going to cut her open, I want to make sure I get it all. She must have a huge ball of straw or something in there, their access to grasses is nil right now because of the harsh winter. They get oatmeal every once in a while, but it is cooked and very soft, so that can be the only thing it is. Problem is there is Keeping her separate is going to be a challenge, I guess I can put her in the barn with a brooder light. How much room does she need while she recovers?
While I agree that surgery by a vet is preferred and ideal, there are few folks who can afford a $250 - $500 bill for a "surgery" by a vet....if you can find one that will perform it on a bird.

The only other option is euthanizing and is why I suggested attempting the surgery as a last resort. NEVER would I suggest it as first line treatment for a novice. I too am a nurse and I know I could do it with no problem....but only as a last resort.

Good luck with her and do keep us posted. I feel so fortunate to never have had a bird with an impacted crop and I always love happy endings!!

Purple...I appreciate and value your opinion!!
I have read many a post where people did crop surgery and pulled out long pieces of straw and hay grass etc. I don't think straw and hay are good choices for bedding for chickens.. pine shaving the largest you can find seems like the best to me, good luck and if you have to end up doing the surgery please let us know how it goes..
Three Cedars....Thank you for valuing my opinion. I took a break from BYC for a while and now that I'm back I've noticed some people are not as respectful as they used to be.

Shadowgrass....have you tried to find a vet to do the surgery? Somewhere on here is a list of vets that BYC'er recommend. Maybe you and I can look for it together.

Do you have a friend who is a nurse or a vet tech? I can walk you through what equipment you need and then walk you through the surgery it's self over the phone.

Do you have a vet school near you? There are thousands of us on this forum. We should be able to think of something.
Shadowgrass, I did the surgery with my husband just before Christmas. I believe that one of the keys to a successful outcome is to do it before the hen is significantly malnourished. If you've noticed this going on for a few weeks you need to address the problem soon. Is she isolated from the rest of the flock?
During the pre and post-op phase, I had our hen in a large borrowed dog crate, it worked really well (also served as the operating table--excellent elevation). PM me if you have any specific questions.
Thank you all for the advice, she was getting to the point to where I need to do the operation or cull her since she is certainly not getting nourishment. I am sorry, I certainly care for animals, but I cannot spend $200 on chicken surgery. I decided to go ahead and do the surgery myself, I actually just finished about 30 minutes ago. It was very easy and seems to have gone smoothly. The chicken who is about 10 months old, did very well. She held very still and did not seem to be bothered at all. We wrapped her in a towel and put a very porous ankle sock over her head. My sister is a nurse and she came over to help. My brother was "the holder" and I had a camera man as well, so I will make the video available soon. There was some debate on where to cut, but from what I read I wanted to be toward the top. So I will break it all down:

1. Scalpel
2. Old towels
3. Cotton balls
4. Turkey baster
5. Saline
6. Headlamp
7. Scissors
8. Alcohol

First I cut a large area of feathers off with the scissors. Basically around the top of the mass in her crop. Then I cleaned the area with alcohol. I then made about 1 1/2" incision through the skin and stopped to blot and let the bleeding stop. I then cut through the secondary skin which bled more that the primary cut. It soaked through a cotton ball, then I press another on top of it and waited about a minute. Once I knew the bleeding was under control, I cut through the crop wall. The incision in the crop wall was about 1". Now since I have never done this before, it would have been helpful if there was a sign or an arrow or something to show me where to cut. So I felt kind of like I was cutting in the blind. But I stayed toward the top of the crop. So, once the little bit of bleeding stopped I cut through the crop wall, and I could immediately see pieces of straw sticking through. I used the hemostat to begin pulling it out, but soon realized that if I opened it just a little more, we could pull it out with fingers. I moved the crop contents toward the hole while my sister worked them out. Pulling very slowly, and gentle side to side, and continuously "choking up" on it, most came out in one giant ball. When I say giant, I mean we ended up with a softball size pile of straw/food. We were then left with a floppy crop. I irrigated and more came out, I just keep doing this until the water was clear and it seemed to be completely empty. The we irrigated the site, dried it and closed the crop with superglue. Once that glue was set, I pulled the skin together while assistant chicken helper Paul applied the glue to close the outer skin.

Something that I wish was clearer, where exactly to cut. All birds are different, so I can't say 2" down from wherever. All I did was locate the large mass, and cut from the top of it down toward her feet. If she was standing it would have been a vertical cut.

When she can have water tomorrow night, she will get some pedialite and antibiotics in her water. Until then, I feel like we did what we could. If we had done nothing she would have starved to death. Or, I would have had to kill her. Death would have been the absolute last option, and letting her starve is certainly not humane either. So, I feel I did right by her to try. She was up and walking around right after, like nothing happened, so we'll see.

Thanks for the good vibes peeps.

BTW, yes it smelled pretty bad, but I have smelled way worse things. Had a smell of rotten milk/burning rubber. Weird.
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