The not-so-sunny side of chicken tending

Considering this is the inaugural post of “Chicken Tenders,” I envisioned something romantic yet pragmatic about the joys of backyard chickens. But there’s a pressing matter to address concerning a few of our hens.

It’s the dreaded sour crop.

For the uninitiated, which included me up until a few months ago, sour crop is an unfortunate affliction of birds, particularly hens.

When a chicken eats, the food travels down the gullet to a holding area—the crop—where it is ground up before continuing  its journey through the gastrointestinal system. Sometimes the mealy matter becomes bound up, swells, and remains in the crop as a big mass of undigested, fermenting food. It cannot be comfortable for the chicken, and it’s an alarming sight for the uninformed.

Chicken crop
This, my friends, is the location of the crop.

There are a number of ways to offer aid to the ailing hen, fortunately. All require keen observation, ingenuity, patience and willingness to deal with a regurgitating chicken. Alright, it is a bit foul, but the chicken owners I know tend to be compassionate souls, and to witness a chicken with this affliction elicits great empathy. What’s a little gritty gray vomit if it means the health and happiness of a hen, right?

I could personally elaborate on the affliction and remedies; however, I myself would be regurgitating information I have gleaned from more experienced tenders. In particular, I discovered a site that summarizes and explains the condition thoroughly. If you’re wildly or even mildly curious, visit Lucky Hens, a UK chicken rescue and re-homing organization that offers informed and humane solutions to this unfortunate malady, both in terms of prevention and treatment.

As for me, I’ll be out back with the men  in my family, massaging gelatinous hen breasts, speaking soothingly while they cluck in mild alarm as we administer a home remedy via syringe (see Lucky Hens link above), and then isolating the unlucky few with the hope we have rendered timely aid. To not catch this issue in time means impaction—a whole ‘nuther story.


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