Sour Crop – Backyard Chickens’ Health and Care

Illnesses in chickens

What is Sour Crop?

Sour crop, also known as crop stasis or impacted crop, is a common condition in chickens that affects the digestive system. The crop is a pouch located in the chicken’s neck, which stores food before it enters the stomach. When the crop becomes impacted, it can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria and cause a variety of symptoms. It is important for chicken keepers to recognise the signs of sour crop and take prompt action to treat the condition.

Sour Crop Symptoms

The most common symptom of sour crop is a swollen, squishy crop. The crop may be full of fluid, undigested food, or a thick, cottage cheese-like substance. Chickens with sour crop may also show signs of lethargy, decreased appetite, and weight loss. In severe cases, affected chickens may develop a foul-smelling discharge from their beaks or may regurgitate partially digested food.

Sour Crop Causes

Sour crop can be caused by a variety of factors, including a diet that is too high in moisture, an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria, or an obstruction in the crop. Chickens that are fed wet or fermented food are more prone to developing sour crop. Other factors that can contribute to the development of the condition include stress, a weakened immune system, or a lack of access to clean water.

Sour Crop Diagnosis

The diagnosis of sour crop is usually based on a physical examination of the chicken. If you take your chook to see a veterinarian, they will check for a swollen or impacted crop, as well as other signs of illness. In some cases, a sample of the crop contents may be taken and analysed for the presence of bacteria or other microorganisms.

You should be able to tell if your chook has an impacted crop though. Their crop should empty overnight if they don’t have a blockage, but if first thing in the morning you notice their crop is still bulging, it’s very likely that they’ll need some assistance. If left untreated for too long, sour crop will develop.

Sour Crop Treatment

Treatment for sour crop typically involves removing the impacted contents of the crop and addressing any underlying causes. In mild cases, massaging the crop and feeding the chicken small amounts of olive oil or other vegetable oils can help to stimulate digestion and break up impacted food. In more severe cases, the crop may need to be flushed with saline or other solutions to remove the impacted material. Antibiotics or antifungal medication may also be prescribed to treat bacterial or yeast infections.

Sour Crop Prevention

Preventing sour crop involves feeding chickens a balanced diet with the appropriate level of moisture. Wet or fermented feed should be fed sparingly, and chickens should have access to clean water at all times. Additionally, reducing stress and ensuring good hygiene in the coop can help to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.


Sour crop is a common condition in chickens that can cause a variety of symptoms. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent the condition from becoming more severe. By feeding a balanced diet and providing good care, chicken keepers can help prevent the development of sour crop and other digestive disorders in their flocks.

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