*Warning Graphic Photos* I had to perform gross crop surgery. Lesson learned and a question

ledbythelamb

Chirping
May 28, 2014
28
16
94
Long story a bit shorter (and please, Im not here for condemnation. I love my birds)
One of my colored Dorking hens had a crop compaction and went on to also develop sour crop with it nearly a month ago.
I tried everything....the oil, gentle massages and syringing baking soda water for days. Her crop stayed feeling like a large balloon of hard packed sand that would stay indented when pressed on. About day 6 after the other methods weren't producing results and my hen was getting weaker, thinner and paler. I resorted to vomiting her to remove the obstruction.
I'd done vomiting before on another hen after lots of how-to instructions a couple years ago with success.
I syringed lots of warm water into her and massaged about 20 minutes and held her upside down and gently squeezed downwards toward her neck and lots of dense compactions of hay and brown thick stuff came out. I syringed more water and massaged again and repeated and more hay gobs came out and her crop was now feeling empty. ( I'd put straw in their run for the first time not thinking they would eat it)
So the vomiting was mostly successful.. BUT I believe I did it too hard and caused the damage because at one point right before the last hay gobs came out, I heard and felt a small *pop* and thought "OMG that cant have been good." I quickly examined and could see nothing wrong.
No guilt trips please as I'm certain she would not have survived without the vomiting but I felt so terrible. After this experience I know more what not to do when vomiting and might be more inclined to just perform crop surgery to remove the compaction if this ever happens in my flock again.
She spent the rest of the day not moving much and looking frumpled but next day she was spunky and eating and drinking normally though her comb was still a bit pale. So I thought all was well. Day 1 after vomiting she was running around and eating normally but when I picked her up I noticed her breast feathers were wet. I examined her skin and it was also wet but nothing unusual except it seemed maybe she was sweating out water from her "pores" and there was a little redness. I figured she may have some edema/swelling from the constant massaging and vomiting. Her crop wasnt overly full and was normal feeling.
Day 2 Her feathers were dry and she was still happily doing chicken activities, eating and drinking normally. I was relieved. The relief didn't last long.
Day 3: I was HORRIFIED when I looked out the window and saw her drink some water and it immediately came out of her chest and dribbled onto the ground! Then I saw her picking at and eating something from her upper chest. *gag* I already knew before I even got to her.
I snatched her up and looked and all I could see was food, grass and a recently eaten earthworm bulging out of an aprox. 3 inch gash at the top of her crop! Around the edges of the gash was slightly necrotic tissue and it smelled like decaying flesh.
I guess that pop I heard was her crop ripping open under the skin and her eating normally caused the skin to split. I was revolted. I felt like the worst chicken keeper :(
I put her in a sink, cleaned out and irrigated her crop/wound (literally swept all the food out of her crop with my finger...very odd feeling, I must say) and grabbed a spare suture kit from when I worked at the hospital (I'm not a medical professional, we were allowed to keep some expired supplies)
I laid her on her side on a towel and my hubby covered her head with a cloth and gently held her down and I cleansed with iodine and started sewing the wound closed.
I couldn't sew the crop first and then the skin last...it was a huge hole and the skin had adhered so I had to sew it as a whole and she looked like Frankenstein when Id finished. I knew if she survived it would be a gnarly scar but I really didn't expect her to make it.
She never even flinched...actually fell asleep and was snoring! Thank God.
I kept her inside in a crate for a week and she ate cornmeal mush and oatmeal mostly and water.
No infection but the necrotic tissue still stank badly. She had some wound drainage but nothing severe.
After a week I put her back outside and she acts like nothing ever happened. I'm frankly very surprised she survived. Her comb and wattles are turning pinker again.
Now...does anyone know when I can take the stitches out? Would it be harmful to leave them in for too long? The sutures are not dissolvable.
I'm afraid to take them out too early since the crop expands so much with food and it was such a big gash. But I don't want it to cause harm being left in too long.
Photos are the wound and then 7 days post-op when she was put back outside. She is now 12 days post op. And yes, I know the stitching job is absolutely ridiculous. Ive learned a lot of things Id do differently
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impr3

Chirping
Sep 26, 2020
60
125
63
Lake County, CA
Hopefully a veterinarian can weigh in as my experience is mostly in suturing up people (I'm an MD). The balance with sutures is to leave them in long enough for the healing tissue to hold without them, but not so long that they a) scar, or b) provide a site for infection to grow on.

Regarding how long before it's healed enough to hold, she may already be there but I'd err on the side of caution. The most high tension places on people get 2-3 weeks before suture removal and a crop is pretty high tension so I'd go with that. Hopefully a vet or chicken expert will weigh in regarding relevant differences between human and poultry healing times.

Unless she's planning to enter any beauty contests, scarring isn't really an issue 😁 🐓.

Infection is a much bigger concern. I can't tell for sure from the pictures whether you used a braided or a monofilament suture, but it looks braided which is higher risk (lots of little crevices for the bacteria to set up in). The exposure to her food on one side and the dirt of the coop on the other also increases risk. Because of this, I'd probably lean toward the earlier end of the 2-3 week window unless a vet weighs in saying chicken healing is slower than people.

Also, it looks like you sewed her up in one long section (with only one knot) which would prevent you from doing this, but if there are a few shorter sections then you can remove one or two and see how the wound seems to be holding.
 

ledbythelamb

Chirping
May 28, 2014
28
16
94
Hopefully a veterinarian can weigh in as my experience is mostly in suturing up people (I'm an MD). The balance with sutures is to leave them in long enough for the healing tissue to hold without them, but not so long that they a) scar, or b) provide a site for infection to grow on.

Regarding how long before it's healed enough to hold, she may already be there but I'd err on the side of caution. The most high tension places on people get 2-3 weeks before suture removal and a crop is pretty high tension so I'd go with that. Hopefully a vet or chicken expert will weigh in regarding relevant differences between human and poultry healing times.

Unless she's planning to enter any beauty contests, scarring isn't really an issue 😁 🐓.

Infect
PS. Even if you did sew her in one long section, when it comes time to remove them you will want to snip each loop and remove them separately. This way you can avoid pulling long sections of dirty suture through the wound.
Well of course an MD would view my atrocious handiwork first 😂 Well I did start out with individual sutures but quickly became a seamstress with one long seam because of time as well as feeling like it would hold the gash closed better. I plan on using disinfected nail Clippers to snip each individual loop and pull out little tiny strips. I have been looking at the wound daily and its not red or warm or oozing. Just that dead skin sort of ...dry rotted off. There is no bad smell anymore. I put Neosporin on daily the first week and every other day after. Its healed looking on the outside but I have no idea how healed it would be on the inside.
I guess she got lucky and survived in spite of me. Hardy birds, Dorkings!
Thanks for your reply! I may wait a few more days
 

ledbythelamb

Chirping
May 28, 2014
28
16
94
Actually, I was thinking that looks pretty dang good! I usually have the benefit of lidocaine and my patients knowing this is for their own good so they should sit still 🙂. Plus, I've never had to work around feathers!
Why thanks! I think I could have made it prettier if I wasn't holding that curved needle by hand :/ I was NOT prepared ☺
 

Abriana

Spicy Sugar Cookie
Apr 26, 2017
4,877
53,631
1,187
Midgard
That is crazy! Chickens heal incredibly and can bounce back so quickly. My rooster Napoleon had super long spurs and when he would mate the hens he would accidentally tear gashes in their sides, very deep gashes. After that I always duct-taped his spurs (worked like a charm). The first time I took the hen to the vet because I was so scared—they said they wouldn’t stitch it because of infection, and just to let it heal. We did a saline rinse and since it was under her wing we just put her back out. She healed completely, and so did the other hens! I’m still impressed :lol:

Im glad your girl is okay! She is very pretty :) and definitely don’t feel bad. Mistakes happen to everyone—it’s how we fix them and learn from them that counts.
 

Xouie

Songster
Jun 11, 2020
502
1,613
206
SF Bay Area
Long story a bit shorter (and please, Im not here for condemnation. I love my birds)
One of my colored Dorking hens had a crop compaction and went on to also develop sour crop with it nearly a month ago.
I tried everything....the oil, gentle massages and syringing baking soda water for days. Her crop stayed feeling like a large balloon of hard packed sand that would stay indented when pressed on. About day 6 after the other methods weren't producing results and my hen was getting weaker, thinner and paler. I resorted to vomiting her to remove the obstruction.
I'd done vomiting before on another hen after lots of how-to instructions a couple years ago with success.
I syringed lots of warm water into her and massaged about 20 minutes and held her upside down and gently squeezed downwards toward her neck and lots of dense compactions of hay and brown thick stuff came out. I syringed more water and massaged again and repeated and more hay gobs came out and her crop was now feeling empty. ( I'd put straw in their run for the first time not thinking they would eat it)
So the vomiting was mostly successful.. BUT I believe I did it too hard and caused the damage because at one point right before the last hay gobs came out, I heard and felt a small *pop* and thought "OMG that cant have been good." I quickly examined and could see nothing wrong.
No guilt trips please as I'm certain she would not have survived without the vomiting but I felt so terrible. After this experience I know more what not to do when vomiting and might be more inclined to just perform crop surgery to remove the compaction if this ever happens in my flock again.
She spent the rest of the day not moving much and looking frumpled but next day she was spunky and eating and drinking normally though her comb was still a bit pale. So I thought all was well. Day 1 after vomiting she was running around and eating normally but when I picked her up I noticed her breast feathers were wet. I examined her skin and it was also wet but nothing unusual except it seemed maybe she was sweating out water from her "pores" and there was a little redness. I figured she may have some edema/swelling from the constant massaging and vomiting. Her crop wasnt overly full and was normal feeling.
Day 2 Her feathers were dry and she was still happily doing chicken activities, eating and drinking normally. I was relieved. The relief didn't last long.
Day 3: I was HORRIFIED when I looked out the window and saw her drink some water and it immediately came out of her chest and dribbled onto the ground! Then I saw her picking at and eating something from her upper chest. *gag* I already knew before I even got to her.
I snatched her up and looked and all I could see was food, grass and a recently eaten earthworm bulging out of an aprox. 3 inch gash at the top of her crop! Around the edges of the gash was slightly necrotic tissue and it smelled like decaying flesh.
I guess that pop I heard was her crop ripping open under the skin and her eating normally caused the skin to split. I was revolted. I felt like the worst chicken keeper :(
I put her in a sink, cleaned out and irrigated her crop/wound (literally swept all the food out of her crop with my finger...very odd feeling, I must say) and grabbed a spare suture kit from when I worked at the hospital (I'm not a medical professional, we were allowed to keep some expired supplies)
I laid her on her side on a towel and my hubby covered her head with a cloth and gently held her down and I cleansed with iodine and started sewing the wound closed.
I couldn't sew the crop first and then the skin last...it was a huge hole and the skin had adhered so I had to sew it as a whole and she looked like Frankenstein when Id finished. I knew if she survived it would be a gnarly scar but I really didn't expect her to make it.
She never even flinched...actually fell asleep and was snoring! Thank God.
I kept her inside in a crate for a week and she ate cornmeal mush and oatmeal mostly and water.
No infection but the necrotic tissue still stank badly. She had some wound drainage but nothing severe.
After a week I put her back outside and she acts like nothing ever happened. I'm frankly very surprised she survived. Her comb and wattles are turning pinker again.
Now...does anyone know when I can take the stitches out? Would it be harmful to leave them in for too long? The sutures are not dissolvable.
I'm afraid to take them out too early since the crop expands so much with food and it was such a big gash. But I don't want it to cause harm being left in too long.
Photos are the wound and then 7 days post-op when she was put back outside. She is now 12 days post op. And yes, I know the stitching job is absolutely ridiculous. Ive learned a lot of things Id do differently View attachment 2390965 View attachment 2390979 View attachment 2390980 View attachment 2390981 View attachment 2390983 View attachment 2390985
You did an amazing job! Thank you for sharing so we can learn from your experience.
 

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