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Flushing a swollen crop - intro

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I'm posting this since we've just had to do this for one of our two hens. I thought it might be helpful to post our experience of it so that anyone else deciding whether to attempt the same thing would have an idea what to expect.


I make no claim that this is typical, and this certainly isn't veterinary advice, although some of it is what the vet told us to do.


I'll split it across two posts - I'm not sure what the maximum post size is.



We were told to flush the crop because it had become extremely swollen (impacted ?) A large mass of food had balled together and not moved on into the gizzard. As it had swelled to such a large size the crop's muscle tone would/could have been lost, so even though it was much reduced in size, it would be necessary for the crop to return to its normal size so that the muscle could recover and it could begin to function again. There was still a large mass of food, which could be felt as something squishy about the size of a golfball (down from grapefruit sized !) in her chest.


Equipment used

Jug of warm water

Plastic catheter (tube about 1-2mm diameter and 12 inches long)

10ml syringe.

Old clothes (advisable !)


The process that the vet advised us to follow was to feed a plastic tube down the back of the throat into the crop, use the syringe to pump in water, massage it to break up the lump and ideally then draw the contents back out through the tube.


However she was unable to provide any but the narrowest catheter and this was not suitable for bringing the contents back up. So ieally a larger diameter tube should be used as this can then be used to draw the crop contents out after the massage. The vet said that a tube two or three times the size of the one she gave us should be usable. :shock: (Poor chicken!)


One other thing she said was that doing it could require sedation of the chicken or even anaesthetic, so be warned that it might not always be a DIY job.


We were told that the important point about feeding the tube in was to send it down to the crop, not down the windpipe (for obvious reasons. This will be covered in my other post, "how to drown your chicken" :wink: )

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The messy bit

There were two stages to this. First feed in the catheter and pump her full of the warm water. Second turn upside down and get it out again.


Important tip : If you hold the chicken, and your assistant empties it, most of the mess will go their way. :D


Fill 'er up.

One of us, seated, with chicken secured on lap, held her head steady and beak open about a finger's width. Looking into the mouth you can see the windpipe as an opening in the middle, directly behind the tongue. The catheter can go either side of this, but definitely not into it if you value your chicken. It didn't look to me as if there was anywhere for the tube to actually fit but when we inserted it it did go.


Amount of tube : measure it beforehand on the outside of the body stretching from the beak down the neck, approximately to where the crop is. Feeling for the lump of food gives you a good hint. About 5 inches on our GNR


:idea: Safety point raised by vet : don't go to far, don't go too fast, or you'll perforate something. (Not sure what the symptoms are, but I guess if still don't have an ex-chicken in a week or so ....)


Once the tube is in, we let the beak close on it, and we just held the head gently but firmly. This meant that the bird was relatively relaxed, but couldn't shake the tube free. Then attach a full syringe of warm water to the tube, and with gentle pressure feed the water down the tube. Emptying one in 10-15 seconds seemed to cause no distress. We used 10ml syringes, swapping them over to keep the process moving. (fill one while the other from the jug is being used) The vet advised us that moving the tube back and forward gently and slowly might be necessary to keep the holes at the end clear. Wasn't a problem for us though.


Now the fun starts. After about 5 syringes (50ml) ...



You're really not going to like this bit. In the absence of a tube big enough to draw the contents back up you've got to empty the chicken the hard way.


Take the tube out. (Hen relaxes. Little does she know :) ) One person holds the hen on her back. Legs pointing skywards, one hand on top, one hand supporting from below. The other person holds her head pointing straight down with one hand and massages the lump in the crop with the other.


This was a slow process and initially very little happened. But directly manipulating the food mass by hand (through the skin) gradually broke it down. For the first two or three minutes nothing much happened. Then a little bit of watery, mash coloured and smelly fluid came out.


This then kept happening every twenty or thirty seconds, sometimes a little, sometimes quite a lot. It appeared to come through her beak, her nose and even around her eyes, until we had a puddle of chicken vomit about 6 inches across between us.


Every time the crop got a bit empty of fluid (you can feel its size) we turned her the right way up again, reinserted the tube and topped her up with another 50ml. Then back upside down and more squeezing.


:idea: As you turn her the right way up she gives a good shake of her head, spraying the remaining chicken vomit in her mouth and nostrils in all directions. The person in front should stand back at this point ! As for the person holding the chicken - well, you get to aim it. :lol:


Over a period of about 30 minutes of this (believe me - it felt longer) we managed to reduce the size of the food lump really quite a lot. The technique (as far as I could see) was to massage the edges of the mass, (feeling pieces breaking off), and work it downwards to get flush it out. Every now and again you get a gush. Holding the head straight down (keep the throat straight ?) seemed to help. Not having a sense of smell is even better.


The interesting thing was that the output of this wasn't actually terribly remarkable - repulsive, but not remarkable. There was no ball of grass, no strange object. It was just crushed pellets, (and the odd maggot) in sloppy digestive fluids. So the whole thing was just a mass of food which had built up for some reason. If you had anything more serious in there it might be a very different job.


Conclusion (at last!)

I wouldn't say this was for the squeamish. Also you need to be confident handling your hens and keeping them calm during all this. It is a pretty revolting process. But on the other hand if you've raised children then you've almost certainly seen, and cleaned up, far worse. I wouldn't advise one way or the other as to when you could DIY and when you'd need a vet but I reckon many of the people on this board could quite happily give it a go.


But as for cutting the crop open and sewing it up yourself afterwards, that I'm staying well clear of.

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