Coops and crops: the life of a chicken


We expanded our family to include 10 hens a few months ago.  They have been endless entertainment for us and take no real effort to maintain the coop or feed them.  I have heard chicken watching referred to as chicken television. One could sit and watch them peck and bounce around for hours if you had the time.  Throw some seeds down for them to compete for and you have some quality entertainment.

What does one do with a chicken?

We allowed them to free-range around the property while we were home but once the gardens started to send up their green shoots we needed to confine them.  Chickens are savages in a garden.  Once they eat all the greenery they will then proceed to dig up and eat the root system.  The tulips were the first to emerge and the first to be quickly consumed.  The chickens made their dust bath area in the tulip garden which was cute but frustrating.  I love my gardens so this was very bad for me.  I love my chickens and their fresh eggs but we have spent years cultivating our flower beds and if I had to chose I may pick the hobby that doesn’t poop all over my grass.

Luckily, I don’t have to choose between the two as our neighbour offered to lend us 4 large sections of chain link fencing he had stored in his barn.  Now our chickens have their own run.  I can spend time with them in their fenced area rather than using a rake to ward them off my

The other day I noticed a big bulge in all of their necks.  It was on the right side of every one of them.  I thought they all had tumours and ran inside to Google chicken neck tumours. My research found that it might be something called “sour crop”.

What is sour crop and what causes it?

The crop is the food storage pouch in a chicken’s neck. Chickens do not have teeth to break down their food, so they can get a build-up of rotting grass and grains in their crop. If they eat grass that is too long or items like plastic or string they can end up with a blockage. Mix this matter with some digestive juices and funky stuff starts to brew.  This build-up in the crop is called “sour crop”. It is also described as a yeast infection in the chicken’s neck.

Sour crop symptoms

Diagram courtesy of

The chicken websites advised me to look for the following indicators of sour crop:

  • hard bulging crop or squishy crop
  • lethargic
  • little or no appetite
  • bad smell coming from their mouth
  • liquid coming out of their mouth

Treating sour crop naturally

It looked like I was going to have a busy few days trying to clear up this sour crop naturally. I was advised to:

  • separate the chickens with sour crop to limit food consumption to avoid adding more food to the blockage
  • increase water intake so they won’t dehydrate
  • force them to vomit (though there are mixed reviews on this as people warn that more often than not the hens could get vomit in their lungs and subsequently suffocate)
  • feed them nothing but yogurt and apple cider vinegar for days to flush the crop out
  • massage the crop to work out the liquid (preferred to vomiting)

I was totally panicked as I had no idea how to massage a chicken crop or where I would house these quarantined chickens.  I emailed a friend for advice. She has about 50 chickens so she is my go-to for all chicken related concerns.  She assured me that they likely don’t have sour crop, but are just full from eating.  She told me that their crop will empty over night when they don’t eat.  She advised me to wait until morning to see if their neck lumps had decreased.  After early morning inspection it turned out that, yes, the chickens were just well fed the day before!



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