Crop Surgery
© 9/21/20018 Abby Black

I tend to pop in on the chickens every so often at random times over the day. It's summer, it's hot, and if they're looking like their feather blankets are too much, I dump some ice water in a bowl. More often than not, someone ends up tipping it over and they get cold mud on their feet for an hour.

Around the beginning of August, I noticed that one of our Barred Rocks, Sally, was sporting a lump on her chest. When I looked it up, I figured that it was a full crop, that she had eaten a lot over the day. However, when I came out the next morning, it was still there and possibly bigger.

My mother and I started doing research. Impacted crop? She was still passing (I watched), but it was tiny amounts. I tried massaging the mass to encourage it to break apart. It felt like Sculpty, and it didn't go away. Then Sally's breath started to smell. Sour crop was coming on, so my family and I decided that it was time to hit the advice forums.

Sally was going to die if we didn't get the mass out. All of us in the family got roles. Dad was going to hold Sally down. My brother was going to pass the instruments (He was very excited to use his dissection kit on a live animal). I was camerawoman. Mom was the medic, to slice open, scoop out, and stitch up again. Grandma was to cheer us on.

This was not cheap. A vet was around $400 to $500 dollars. The supplies we got cost over $200; Gauzes, solvable stitches, bandages, disinfectants, etc. The only thing we didn't have to buy was the scalpel set, which came from my grandmother who was a nurse. We all watched a very good YouTube video on a Southern family who had a male relative who was a surgeon (Their chicken had eaten a bunch of grass and it snarled in the crop). Mom watched suturing tutorials for surgery residents from a nearby university hospital, and practiced on some banannas. Then we were ready.

The surgery lasted four hours from shaving the feathers to stitching up. It turned out that Sally had decided that dirt looked extremely appetizing, and that mass that felt like Sculpty clay? It was literally clay with bits of grit and seed mixed in. My sniffer must not be up to par because everyone else thought it rank.

After the surgery, Sally popped up with all her feathers in disarray, looking like "What have you DONE to me?!" We tried giving her bandages, but she kept ripping them to shreds while struggling to fix her feathers, so she ended up not getting any at all. I, as the hobbyist seamstress, made a crop bra, but it kept putting her to sleep when she wasn't trying to tear it off.

Sally was quarantined to the storage side of the coop, separated from her flock, for two weeks. She survived on applesauce, yogurt, crushed chick feed, and water. During this period, we monitored her crop to make sure she wasn't pecking at the stitches and to clean up after her. We also learned that chickens purr when content. Apparently, not having free choice feed really makes a chicken appreciate when she IS allowed to eat.

God blessed this chicken, because her mass was the size of a softball, and most certainly should've resulted in pendulum crop, which would quickly develop into sour crop, and, since she refused to wear the crop bra, would end up on the dinner table within a month. Somehow, she didn't get pendulum crop and it only expands quite a bit. It's emptied every night.

It's been around a month. Sally has healed spectacularly. All that's left of her surgery is a bald spot on her chest, which everyone, including herself, ignores. We're hoping that feathers will grow in with the next molting, and that she'll be giving us eggs for years to come.