My Crop Tube Feeding Journey With My Bird (Pics For Visuals- VERY detailed Post)

kuntrygirl

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Feb 20, 2008
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Opelousas, Louisiana
I have been reading a LOT of threads about sick birds who are not eating and I wanted to share my personal experience with tube feeding my bird. I would by like to start by saying that I have absolutely NO experience as any type of medical professional. I am NOT nor have I ever had any type of medical training as an LPN, NURSE, Medical Assistant, CNA, Doctor, Vet, Vet Tech, Pharmacy, Phlebotomist, etc. I'm just your every day average person who just so happens to have animals. So going into this was VERY scary for me.

Here is my story..........

I am dealing with at this very moment a bird that I had noticed who had droopy wings and was laying around too much in my opinion. I noticed this unusual behavior for a couple of days and it worried me. When I picked up my bird, I noticed and felt that my bird had lost a lot of weight. I immediately knew that something was wrong. With the weight loss, I knew that I had to get some food inside of him. I have always hand fed all of my birds that needed it but I knew that this bird would not eat much food if I had to hand feed it. So, I chose my second choice, which was to mix up a mixture of feed that contained Flockraiser crumble, eggs and vitamins. I liquefied this combination and fed with a syringe. This process went "OK" but I was still worried about the amount of food that was going in. It just wasn't enough of food intake in my opinion.

Because of my concerns, I took pics of poop and sent to my good BYC friend Kathy (casportpony) in addition to sending her the weight of my bird. Casportpony is my go to person for just about everything when it comes to sickness/illnesses/meds/procedures. She has proven to be an excellent resource and I trust every suggestion and advice that she gives me because I know that she thoroughly researches EVERYTHING and she has used these methods on her own birds and I know that she would never do anything to jeopardize the lives of her animals. So, after sending poop pics to casportpony, she gave me her take on the pics and her suggestions and concerns. Casportpony has been after me for months to get me to learn to crop tube feed but I always told her no because I was too afraid. I was afraid that I would hurt my birds.

So, this time around when my bird had lost 50% of it's body weight and was obviously knocking on death's door, I took the plunge and researched more about crop tube feeding and sought out the necessary supplies that I would need. Casportpony helped me in telling me what I would need. Because I knew that time was of the essence and I did not have time to waste. Ordering something online was not an option because I would have to wait too long to get the supplies. So, I began my journey to call just about EVERY vet's office, doctor's office, hospital, pharmacy and medical supply company in my town to get the feeding tubes. No one had them and if they did have them, they would not sell it to me for whatever reasons. My last and final try was a pharmacy that I just so happen to be driving by. I turned around and went inside and talked to the pharmacist. I explained to them what I needed and pretty much begged them for their help in getting the tube for me. The pharmacist immediately got on the phone and called the company that she gets her supplies from. After talking with her rep, she said that they did not have what I needed. By this time, the other pharmacy techs were helping and making calls to animal owners that they knew to try to help me find the tubes. They still had no luck. Then they decided to go to their supply room and look through every item they had to try to find me the tube. They came out with hand fulls of supplies. And lo' and behold they handed me a tube (labeled as urinary catheter) and that is exactly what I needed. The size was 16 and I really needed an 18 but I knew that the 16 would work as well.

Pic of Actual Tube From The Pharmacy
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The pharmacy also gave me a large syringe. I already had 3 of these at home but I got it anyway. You can never have too many.
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So, after getting the tube, I then proceeded to go to PetSmart to get the feed that I would need for the tube feeding (Exact Hand Feeding Baby Bird Formula - $14.99).
http://www.petsmart.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2753607

(Casportpony recommended this.)
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I was also to get some Pedialyte but I forgot to stop at the store on my way home. Being as though I forgot, I researched online to find a home made Pedialyte recipe to add to the mixture. Recipes Below.

Homemade Pedialyte Recipe #1
Mix together:
1 quart water
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Homemade Pedialyte Recipe #2:
1/2 cup hot water
3 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Jello gelatin powder/mix, any flavor
Mix salt, sugar and Jello with hot water until dissolved. Stir into 3 1/2 cups of water and serve. Refrigerate up to 3 days.

Homemade Pedialyte Recipe #3
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons sugar or honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
optional: 1/2 packet unsweetened Kool-Aid
Mix all ingredients together and serve. Refrigerate up to 3 days.

Homemade Pedialyte Recipe #4
2 quarts water
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup orange juice
Mix all ingredients together and serve. Refrigerate up to 3 days

So, I researched online the anatomy of a chicken. Specifically the crop area to make sure that I knew exactly what I was doing. I came across several pics and diagrams and printed them out and brought them home to help me with the crop tube feeding.

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How To Crop Feed Your Bird Diagram
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Ok, so I have my tubes, my syringes, my feed and my recipes for the Pedialyte. The other thing that is VERY important in this entire process is to make sure that you have a scale to weigh your bird. Casportpony (Kathy) always starts off all of her bird care procedures by weighing her birds. I use to chuckle when I would read her threads when she said that she weighed her birds. I always knew that it was VERY important but didn't realize how important it was until now. Weighing your bird allows you to know exactly how your bird is doing in terms of if your bird is eating or not. The scale will assist you in monitoring and documenting weights so that you can get the necessary amount of weight on your bird. I already had scales at home for weighing eggs, so I didn't have to purchase a scale. I have 2 scales that I have been using to weigh my bird. (See Pics Below)

Both scales are VERY inexpensive. I bought the digital scale from ebay and it was about $9.00. The other food scale was purchased at WalMart for about $10.00. It's a great investment.
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Ok, so now is the moment of truth. Before attempting to tube feed, I would strongly suggest that this be a 2-person task. DO NOT attempt to tube feed by yourself UNLESS that is the last resort. Get your bird and make sure that your bird is securely wrapped in a towel. This will lessen the chance of your bird flying away or re-positioning itself while tube feeding. The other person should hold the bird while you prepare to tube feed. Some may ask how would you know how far to place the tube down the bird. I measured from the beak to the crop (on the outside of the bird). I then marked the tube at the beak area when the tube had gone down to the crop area. This mark indicated where I should stop.

Now is time to get the feed and mix it up. Make sure that everything that you use is sterile and clean. You do not want to allow any bacteria to get inside of your bird. I always wear gloves when handling my birds when giving meds or feeding.

Your mixture will look like this. Please make sure you follow the directions on your container if you will be using bird formula.
(internet pic)
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You will want to determine how much you will feed your bird. I started off with 4 ounces of feed (2) 2 ounce syringes and then increased to 6 ounces (3) 2 ounce syringes. I would strongly suggest to draw up the feed before you get started. You don't want to feed with the 1st syringe and then stop to draw up more feed. Have your syringes pre-drawn and ready. Mine look like this. (See Pics Below)
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If I am feeding outside in the pen, I place the syringes and tube in a fresh ziplock bag to transport outside.
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So once your have your feed and 2 team person in place, you will now begin the process. I followed this diagram and it helped me tremendously.
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Connect your tube to your syringe and you are ready to crop tube feed. Make sure that you have a tight fit with the tube being on the syringe. Make sure that your formula is not too thick because it will not flow through the tube and out of the end through the holes. Open the birds mouth and slowly place the tube inside it's mouth and slide it down the throat to where your mark is. Slowly press down on the syringe as the formula flows through the tube into the bird's crop. This process takes less than a minute. At any time, you see that your bird is in any distress (if you are doing it correctly, your bird won't be), please stop and allow the bird to calm down and begin again.

http://zooveterinary.com/veterinary-medicine/tube-feeding
The steps involved in tube feeding are as follows:

1. Gently restrain the bird with one hand using a towel and extend the neck. Use your other hand to control the speculum and the feeding tube. Measure the approximate length of tubing it will take to pass from the bird’s mouth to its crop and mark the stopping point directly on the tube using tape or a permanent-ink marker.

2. Attach the feeding syringe filled with the desired amount of formula to the tube, and expel any air present within the tube. With the bird held upright, insert the speculum into its mouth. Pass the feeding tube through the speculum starting from the left side of the bird’s mouth and progressing toward the right side of the throat. As you pass the tube, feel for the tube in the esophagus as it passes down. This will help ensure that the tube is in the correct place and not in the airways. Insert the tube the pre-measured distance.

3. Slowly administer the desired amount of food. Palpate the crop for fullness. It should not feel tight, but rather still slightly fluctuant to the touch. Once finished, withdraw the tube. If the bird regurgitates food at any time during the feeding, withdraw the tube immediately. Be sure to clean and disinfect the equipment after each feeding.


My first time crop tube feeding went perfect. There were no problems and the bird sat still and did not move. I tube feed 2 times a day.

During this process, you will want to closely pay attention to the poop. When your bird is not feeling well, you should have noticed a change in your bird's poop. I know that I did. This is a pic of what my bird's poop looked like when I noticed the droopy wings and laying down all of the time. I knew that this was not normal looking poop. See Pic Below
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So, I started crop tube feeding on my bird this past weekend 7-13-2013.

Before beginning the feeding, I weighed my bird on both scales for comparison and to get an average weight. My bird moved a lot trying to stay on the scale, so I took an average weight between the 2 weights. SEE PICS BELOW
My bird had lost 50% of it's body weight.
Scale #1 - 3lbs 9.0 ounces
Scale #2 - 68.3 ounces
The average weight is 4.0 lbs
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Weight and pics of poop after 2 days of crop tube feeding.

Weights
Scale #1 - 4lbs 1.5 ounces
Scale #2 - 69.3 ounes

Weight Gain
Scale # 1 - 0.25 ounces
Scale # 2 - 0.8 ounces

Poop Pics
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***************************************************************************************************************************************
Weight and pics of poop after 4 days of crop tube feeding.
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7/16/2013 Weigh In
Scale #1 - 4lbs 1.9 ounces
Scale #2 - 75.25 ounces

Weight Gain
Scale # 1 - 0.04 lbs
Scale # 2 - 5.95 ounces

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**The poop is a little runny and the consistency is still a concern (possible bacterial infection), so I am administering 0.4 ml of Baytril for 5 days at this time.

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Total Average Weight Gain Because of Crop Tube Feeding is 6.95 ounces based on Accu-teck scale that read ounces. It may not sound like a lot but when your bird is as thin as mine is, it is a lot.
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**I also made sure that my bird was dusted with Sevin Dust to make sure that I did not overlook any creepy crawlers on the bird. Sevin Dust is my product of choice.

Another thing that I would like to address is to make sure that you have an up-to-date Emergency/Medicine/First Aid Kit available with all needed meds in the event you have an emergency. When something happens to your birds, you don't want to get caught not having what you need. It could save your bird's life. Make sure that you have your preferred de-wormer, antibiotics or meds for bacteria related illnesses. I use Safeguard Paste and Valbazen as my preferred choice of de-wormers and I already had these one hand. When I knew something was wrong with my birds, I immediately de-wormed again. I had just used a de-wormer about 2 months prior but I did it again.

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I also keep Baytril on hand for my birds. Please do your own research on Baytril. The USDA has banned Baytril in the use of poultry, so it is your choice what you want to use. I will ALWAYS have Batyril on hand. Baytril saved my turkey about 3 years ago. Without the use of this drug, my turkey would have died. Some peope are totally against the use of Baytril and that is their choice but I know what has worked for me and my birds.
http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/EMIHC254/333/29758/431016.html?d=dmtICNNews

Enrofloxyn 10%
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Always keep syringes, and other things that you will need in the event you have an emergency.

Being proactive and being informed will save your birds. It is our duty and responsibility as pet owners to exhaust all avenues in caring for our birds in making sure that we provide the best care. I know that vets are expensive and we can't always take our birds to the vet and some of us can't afford to take them at all. Some avian vets are limited in most areas and some of them have no knowledge of what to do when it comes to our chickens and other birds. So, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves and be informed on what to do. BYC is a great resource where we all can come and learn from one another. For those who have taken their birds to the vet, can share with us what their vet has recommended and suggested. We can also learn that way.

I hope that this has brought some light to those who are afraid to crop tube feed your bird, as I was afraid. I honestly think that if I had not begun this crop tube feeding that my bird would be dead now. If your bird is too sick to eat and/or drink, then your bird will probably die from starvation and dehydration. You HAVE TO feed your bird and keep it hydrated. Imagine humans when we get sick and we don't have an appetite and don't want to eat. Our loved ones make us eat. And others (humans) have to be tube fed in order to live. Our birds are the same way. They depend on us to make sure that they receive the proper nutrition to live.

Good Luck in your Crop Tube Feeding Journey. Your bird will thank you in the end.

Let's get on board and Crop Tube Feed. :highfive:

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Thanks to casportpony for all of her help in showing me and teaching me what I needed to do to save my bird. :bow

Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is of my own experience with crop tube feeding. I am not a vet or a vet tech, so I cannot offer you professional medical diagnosis or treatments. I have researched what to do for my bird and I felt that I needed to do this for the best interest of my bird. This post is only to document my journey and not to force my views or opinions on others to crop tube feed.
 
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casportpony

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warning read me.png

Warning! If the volumes listed in the above post and later in this thread are given it could cause death!

*Maximum* crop volume is 5% of a bird's weight (45 ml per pound of bodyweight). However, when crop feeing a sick bird it is best to start off with much less, as in no more than 3% of their bodyweight (9-13 ml per pound of bodyweight)

Edited to add
From Technical Procedures for the Avian Patient, by
Amy B. Johnson, CVT

Crop Feeding
Crop feeding is the main way to provide nutritional support to sick birds. There are many different formulas on the market including; Harrison’s, Kaytee Exact, Zupreem and Pretty Bird. Kaytee Exact makes a formula exclusively for macaws, which require a higher fat content. Crop feeding should only be administered to well hydrated, normothermic birds that are able to stand on their own. Formula should be mixed to an appropriate thickness to provide adequate caloric intake and should be administered at a temperature between 100˚-102˚F. Crop burns can happen at temperatures greater than this and are often not seen for several days. Symptoms of a bird with a crop burn are decreased appetite and drooling. If the burn is severe enough, a fistula will open in the crop and formula will drain from it.

When crop feeding a bird, calculate the volume to be fed at 3ml per 100gms up to every six hours for adults. Juveniles are fed 10 percent of their body weight several times a day. Always check the crop first for food contents or decreased crop motility before feeding. Weighing the bird at the beginning of every day will help determine if it is receiving the appropriate amount of calories.

Crop feeder or crop needles come in several different sizes depending on the size bird. Crop feeders are stainless steel tubes with a ball at the end. They can be purchased through www.vetspecialtyproducts.com. The bird should be restrained properly while the crop feeder is inserted in the bird’s left side of its mouth and directed toward the right side advancing into the crop. The trachea should be palpated separate from the crop feeder with the ball of the crop feeder in the crop. Once placement is confirmed and with the esophagus occluded by the head, the formula is given quickly. While maintaining occlusion of the esophagus the crop feeder is removed and the bird returned to the cage feet first and slowly letting go of the head, making sure the bird does not regurgitate. In the event that the bird should begin regurgitation, leave the bird alone. Aspiration is more likely to happen if the bird is stressed causing increased respiration and inhalation of formula. Monitor the bird for further respiratory signs and adjust technique or volume at next attempt at crop feeding.
 

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casportpony

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Another way to tell if you are in the airway or in the crop is to listen to the tube or put your finger up to the opening of the tube for air. If you've seen them force feed horses, they do the same and listen to the end of the tube for air sounds which means it's in the lungs.
Good suggestion! But honestly, I've tube hundreds of birds and I've never been able to stick it in the wrong whole, I've even tried once on a dead hen, but the tube was actually too big, so unless you're using too small a tube on a large bird, the likelyhood of that happenening is slim to none.

-Kathy
 

kuntrygirl

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
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Feb 20, 2008
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Opelousas, Louisiana
Can't help myself, I'm so exicted by your post... Anyway, just had a thought... you should keep posting the amounts you're feeding along with his weight gain. Doesn't have to be daily, but I think it will really help people understand how beneficial tubing is.

-Kathy


I surely will.

He had a good poop last night. It's looking so much better and is thickening up.

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The scale showed more of a weight gain but I'm not sure if it was from feeding him because I weighed him after the feeding and not before. I will have to remember to weigh before feeding.

Anyway, here are the weights and weight comparisons from last night.
Weight Gain Since Tube Feeding on 7-13-2013
Scale # 1 - 0.72 lbs
Scale # 2 - 14.7 ounces

Weight Gain Since 7-16-2013
Scale # 1 - 0.43 lbs
Scale # 2 - 7.95 ounces
 
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realsis

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after reading your story I always like to be prepared in my emergency kit so I bought the food you suggested and a tube. Here is the picture of my tube and I wanted to know if this will work in a emergency? It is a 18 French.please private message me and let me know if I bought the correct thing. It looks a little big and I'm worried. please pm and let me know if this will work.I want to be prepared in a emergency situation. thank you kindly.
 

SaraT

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Jul 28, 2008
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I doubt the tubing you have will work plus I think 18 french is going to be too big for an average chicken. I've been using a 12 french red rubber catheter for a 5 lb hen and I would think you would need an 8 french for a bantam.

This is basically what I was using, although I got mine from work: http://www.kvsupply.com/puppy-feeding-tube-french-12


Then I have another general question, is there any brand of syringe that works better? I have been using a monoject catheter tip syringe, and after one feeding with the Kaytee Exact food, the syringe gets really hard to plunge! I'm a vet tech that works with horses and a horse owner, so I'm pretty familiar with theses syringes and can usually make them last quite a while for oral meds for horses, but I did not have good luck using them to feed with. I do plan on just ordering an entire box of syringes so I'm fully prepared next go round and can be less stingy with them.

Kuntrygirl have you noticed a difference between the two brand you have shown in the pictures?

I would also like to say that my hen developed watery poop upon recovering from a raccoon attack and the consistency improved after only a day and a half of tubing feeding a more adequate amount of food. (I had only been feeding about 60 mls at a time and sometimes doing subcutaneous fluids instead of feeding.)
 

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