The crop is an out-pocketing of the esophagus and is located just outside the body cavity in the neck region. Any swallowed food and water is stored in the crop until it is time to pass it on to the rest of the digestive tract. The two most common crop problems are sour crop and impacted crop. Impacted crop is also known as being crop bound.
Sour crop is caused when the crop doesn’t empty fully overnight and as a result the food ferments within the crop causing a fungal infection. You can identify sour crop by checking the crop before the bird eats in the morning and if it is sour crop the crop will be watery or squishy like a balloon and if you open the bird’s beak a foul smell will emanate from it.
Crop Bound with Impacted Crop
Impacted crop (or being crop bound) is similar in that the crop does not empty overnight but in the morning it will feel hard and swollen.
A pendulous crop is when the crop hangs down lower than it should do and as the name suggests often swings ‘like a pendulum’ as the bird moves around.
In all cases the bird is likely to seem lethargic, will lose weight and may make strange head movements due to the discomfort of the crop.
Avoiding Crop Problems
In order to avoid crop problems you should ensure that you keep an ample supply of poultry grit available for your chickens. The grit breaks up the food in the crop and without it the food cannot be broken down and digested, the calcium in the grit also benefits laying birds.
Long grass should be cut down as this can compact in the crop and stodgy foods such as bread and pasta should be fed sparingly as these can also cause a compaction.
It is also recommended that you use apple cider vinegar, (not the type found in supermarkets) added to the chickens water and you should always make sure that your birds are properly wormed.