how to empty a birds crop

One of the most common problems that send a baby bird to the vet is a condition called “sour crop.” Sour crop is actually “crop stasis,” a condition in which the baby has a crop – or gullet – full of hand-feeding formula that has gone bad. The term “sour crop” describes the condition of the crop’s contents, but it’s rarely a disease unto itself. In the vast majority of cases it’s actually a symptom of other illness.

The danger of crop stasis comes from the spoiled food itself. Just as any other kind of food will go bad if it’s left in a warm room for too long, so undigested formula will accumulate toxins and bacteria – and threaten the bird’s life.

Crop stasis is a condition in which the crop ceases to function. In other words, the crop stops emptying. An owner will approach the baby for a scheduled feeding and observe that most or all of the food from the previous feeding is still there. It’s important to mention here that you should never give additional food to a baby that still has a full crop. Crop stasis is an emergency situation and you should call your veterinarian immediately.

Sometimes, no catheter small enough to fit down the esophagus and into the tiny chick’s crop can remove the contents of the crop from a very young chick. Then, your only option is to “milk” the crop until it is empty. The chick might die, but it will usually be fast. Should the stationary crop contents remain unchanged, the chick will gradually perish from starvation and dehydration. You can groan now, but after you empty the crop, you will actually be adding something back in before removing it. If you have any Nolvasan, add it to some water and heat it to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. then give the crop a two-minute period after adding 5 to 15 cc of the Nolvasan water. This time, emptying should be simpler because the majority of the large debris that could clog the catheter has already been removed. Repeat this process until only the Nolvasan water comes out of the crop if you keep getting white or slimy material out of it. Return the chick to the brooder at this point so it can warm up. If you have some Nystatin, give the chick . 5 cc before putting it into the brooder. The recommended medication for treating yeast infections is nystatin (Candida)

It is unrealistic to expect that the veterinarian you see for the first time will trust you with prescription drugs to be taken as you see fit. It took me and my veterinarian a long time to get to this point of comfort and trust. I also didn’t feel comfortable at first taking the medication on my own without a doctor’s prescription, so we spoke over the phone a lot, going over the symptoms and coming to a medication regimen. I didn’t start to feel confident in my ability to make some decisions until after seeing the same two or three issues repeatedly for years on end. The veterinarian clearly had more faith in me than I did! Frequently, even now, I find a chick in the nest with a major issue—its crop completely stopped—that requires emergency medical attention to give it any chance of survival at all. It is important to treat the parents of any pairs that consistently produce chicks with foul-smelling droppings or that infect the chicks with Candida before they leave the nestbox. This is because subsequent clutches will nearly always have the same issue(s).

The issue with this is that, in addition to not knowing if the antibiotic will work, using one can occasionally promote the growth of yeast. For this reason, when administering an antibiotic to unweaned chicks, veterinarians frequently also administer Nystatin. As we previously discussed, I frequently treat candida infections on my own without ever consulting my veterinarian. She is aware that I will bring any girls who don’t get better right away to see her. If it’s not an exceptionally valuable chick, I will also typically use Baytril and Nystatin to treat the “stinky poop” issue. I have to admit that my nose has developed into a useful diagnostic tool, and I have generally been successful with this regimen. The risk here, which I occasionally acknowledge, is that using any antibiotic will make it more challenging to perform a reliable culture and sensitivity test in the event that the antibiotic I’ve used is ineffective.

A common term used by many to characterize the phenomenon of delayed crop emptying is “sour crop.” However, you could be misled if you consider it to be a “sour crop” because this is not the main issue. In other words, neither “sour crop” bacteria nor “sour crop” yeast exist. A primary bacterial or yeast (fungal) condition, ingestion of bedding materials, formula fed too cold, brooder temperatures below the chicks’ requirements, and other factors can also cause the delayed crop emptying.

If you ever remove chicks from their parents and notice that their droppings smell, it’s likely that the parents have given them a bacterial infection, most commonly E. Coli orClostridium. Giardia can also cause bad smelling droppings. The presence of foul-smelling droppings almost always signals the need for antibiotic treatment. Right now, a culture and sensitivity test is the best option. (In this test, a sample is taken from multiple locations—in this case, crop droppings and/or contents—and put on a growing medium. The presence of bacteria causes them to form colonies or patches on the growth medium. Different techniques are employed to determine which particular bacteria and yeast are present. After that, the “plate” is divided, with each section receiving a different antibiotic application. When giving an antibiotic to your chick, the one that most effectively suppresses the growth of the harmful bacteria and/or eliminates them will be the most effective against them. Without this test, you can’t be certain which bacteria are the source of the issue or determine which antibiotic will be most effective. My veterinarian is among the many who will give a broad-spectrum antibiotic (like Baytril) to a patient they have known for a long time and who they trust in an emergency.

Treating Sour Crop in Birds

So how does a veterinarian treat this condition? First, the spoiled food needs to be removed as soon as possible in order to stabilize the patient. For the majority of patients, formula can be taken out by oral feeding tubes. A metal feeding tube with a ball tip or a standard red rubber can be inserted into the crop, depending on the formula’s particle size. The crop contents can then be sucked out.

However, before removing the food, the doctor may occasionally need to dilute the spoilt formula by adding warm water or electrolyte solutions to the crop. The crop is then gently massaged and the contents aspirated. To avoid the crop wall being suctioned up against the feeding tube’s end during aspiration, it’s critical to palpate the tube inside the crop. Following a reasonable amount of emptying, the crop needs to be rinsed by repeatedly adding warm, balanced electrolyte solution, rubbing and mixing the contents, and aspirating the fluid until it becomes clear.


How do you help a baby bird empty crop?

In most patients, formula can be removed through a feeding tube passed orally. Depending on the particle size of the formula, either a standard red rubber or a ball-tipped metal feeding tube can be introduced into the crop. The crop contents can then be sucked out.

How do you know when a bird’s crop is full?

A crop should be felt very gently, such as touching a balloon. With a handfeeding chick, it should feel like an underfilled water balloon – soft, but not tight. If the crop feels tight, and especially if you leave an impression where you touch it, then the crop is too full and possible impacted.

Why is my parrot’s crop not emptying?

Normally the crop empties shortly after the bird eats but sometimes a condition known as “crop stasis” occurs, in which there is a delay in the crop emptying. Delayed or reduced crop emptying can occur due to crop burns, overfilling or infections with parasites (eg trichomoniasis), fungi or bacteria.