Chicken Crop

Yesterday morning I had no idea what a chicken crop was. Okay, I’d heard of a craw (“it stuck in my craw”) in the vaguest of terms but I didn’t know a) what that really was, b) that it was the same thing as a crop, c) that my chickens all had one, and d) that it can get really big and look a lot like a massive tumour.

Then, yesterday I went down to give the girls an afternoon treat and noticed that Rosie had a huge lump on her right breast. I kind of poked at it (she backed away from the treat but didn’t protest) and it felt like chicken (I know, what did I expect?). I came inside and got Frank and he agreed Rosie had a big lump (a very observant bloke). And that the other 2 chooks had smaller varieties of the same.

We panicked. Did we feed them something bad? Do we have a noxious weeds in our garden? Were our girls on their last leg?

Here is a so-so photo (these shots are hard to get of a chicken) of Rosie with moderate crop swelling taken today – a LOT smaller than yesterday’s swelling.

Since it’s the 21st Century, I ran in and did an internet search. It turns out that chickens have a crop (aka craw) which is where all their food goes to be digested by the grit they eat (I basically knew that). It is possible for chickens to gorge themselves and for the crop to bulge (that I didn’t know). If the swelling is reduced in the morning, it’s nothing to worry about. If not, it’s pretty much bye-bye-birdie. Okay there are some creepy options like massaging the craw while holding the chicken’s head down, pushing out any excess food and removing the blockage, but generally the end result is suffocation when her crop cuts off her windpipe. This is apparently VERY rare (whew).

As I know our girls are gluttons, I slept well suspecting all would be right in the morning. And it was.

I’m guessing the crop grows through the day, every day, and shrinks at night. The poor chooks are stuffing themselves to make me those tasty daily eggs.

We’re thinking that what made yesterday different was that we didn’t let the girls out for a garden run like we do most days. They’d been in their smaller run (still bigger than most backyard chickens get) all day and I think that meant they just sat around eating their feed rather than scratching and eating less food more slowly. That’s probably why Rosie’s crop was so enlarged. Our chickens revert to couch potato status when the glories of the full yard are not at their disposal.

The other thing Frank and I did notice about this whole distended crop thing was that this morning, the chook poo donations left by the girls overnight was of impressive proportions. I suppose all the food from their crop that didn’t become and egg became garden fertiliser.


About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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2 Responses to Chicken Crop

  1. I had a rooster one time that liked to eat the small acorns around here and his craw got the size of baseball sometimes but he never suffocated i think it is very rare indeed!

    • I now pay attention to the progress of their craws. At 6:30 this morning Rosie’s was flat as a pancake. By 8:30 it’s more like an egg. By 4:30 this afternoon I’m sure it will look like she swallowed a bar of soap. Luckily, no baseball sized breast yet. It’s good to know it can even get bigger without giving her problems and that the likelihood of it developing a blockage is low.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences – I’m a total rookie with chickens and I’m trying to fast track my learning.

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