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Sour Crop and Big Blowers

The best treatment for sour crop is prevention. I have found that 90% of the cases of sour crop starts with the bird overeating and/or over drinking, mostly over drinking. It's not hard to do with an oversized crop. The larger the crop, the greater the chance of getting sour crop. The way I prevent it is to have food and water on hand for every Pouter at high risk 24/7. The reason I say "high risk" is because the breeds with smaller crops at a lower risk.

The problem mainly arises when the birds run out of food and/or water and when you do give them some, they gorge themselves on it, thus causing the crop to become to heavy to digest the material in the crop. It also can happen during times of breeding from the birds developing milk. And from cocks driving hens and not allowing then water or food and when they do get some, they gorge. Hens will sometimes also gorge after laying. I assume this is because they fast during labor. Also care should be taken when you receive a large cropped breed in the mail because they haven't had food or water for at least a couple of days. I like to isolate them and give them a small amount multiple times per day until they leave the food or water without consuming it all.

If allowed to ferment in the crop for 2-3 days or so it will cause the crop to go "sour." It should never be allowed to get to this point. If the birds have food and water in front of them freely at all times, they should never gorge themselves but there are exceptions that's why it's good to have multiple sources of food and water in the loft.

A bird that does become "crop bound" (overloaded) should be treated immediately before the material in the crop is allowed to spoil and go sour. The first symptom to look for is a "moping" bird. The usually sit in the corner with a sad look on their face and are likely to be laying down due to the overly heavy crop. Of course they are not eating at this time and if not treated will die in a few days.

Click here for a video on how to flush a crop bound Gaditano

Normal stance of this Gaditano

After she gorged herself on water and bound her crop. Notice, her crop is too heavy to hold upright, which doesn't allow the crop's contents to digest

The way I treat the birds is to gently squeeze out the water in the crop holding the bird upside down. If it is full of grain or pellets you may have to flush out the crop with a Turkey baster full of slightly warm water with probiotics in it. I will fill the crop a couple of times and squeeze it empty till all the material is out of the crop and the crop is nice and clean. If your bird has bound it's crop with larger grains it's more difficult, because those are almost impossible to get out and you will do more harm than good flushing it out.  

Once you flush a bird's crop is when the work starts. At this stage it's vital to prevent it from immediately reoccurring. It will immediately reoccur because the bird will be very hungry and thirsty because his crop was just bound for a day or two and he is famished and if allowed will gorge himself on food and water again when given a chance. Say you treat the bird in the morning, put him back in the loft and see he's fine and you go to work but when you come home he is bound up again! It's discouraging and you might blame the bird but it's your own fault, not his. Once the crop is flushed, you have to give the bird very small amounts of food and water multiple times per day until enough food and water can be left in front of him till he won't gorge himself on it again. This normally takes a couple of days.

A method I use if for one reason or another I don't want to flush the crop - e.g. the crop has a lot of grain in it or the bird has been through a lot of stress already from too much flushing - is to warp the bird up tightly in small towels so it can't move and place it in a gallon size ice cream bucket, leaving only the head uncovered and pointed up. I leave the bird in there until most of the contents of the crop has digested. It usually takes about 12 hours or so. See photo below. Wrap it up tight enough so it can't get out but loose enough so it can breath freely.

For proper prevention you need to make sure all the birds have free access to food and water. There are many reasons a bird won't eat even if food and water is available only in one location. One is aggression. You might have an aggressive bird guarding the food or water and that may keep a bird from eating and once he does get a chance he will gorge himself. That's why it's wise to have multiple feeding and watering stations in the loft.

Another cause of sour crop is Pigeon milk binding the crop. When the milk forms in the crop of a pouter it lines the crop and makes it heavy, that in combination with food and water will send many large cropped breeds over the edge. It's risky letting large cropped breeds raise their own or even sit long enough to form milk. If they make it past the milk stage, there's another danger and that's feeding the young. A bird may gorge itself to bring back food for it's young, thus causing the crop to bind. Personally, I always use fosters and never allow them to even sit on eggs more than a week for fear the milk will be formed in the crop. 

I do not recommend feeding pellets. Pellets absorb water in the crop causing a heavy crop. Try soaking some pellets in water, the material will double it's size in 15 minutes. I like smaller grains with a little corn and peas. 

I only have problems when the weather gets hot from June-September, that's when they drink a lot more water. Of course it's not only hot here in Arizona it's very dry, which causes birds to drink a lot more. than they would in other parts of the world.

Response by Rene Kruter: I only feed whole grains and therefore I gave up on washing out the crop. My method is the old fashion one. I role the bird in a newspaper and place it, head up, in a PVC waste pipe of 90 mm. After 12 to 24 hours the crop is empty and the recovering as you describe can start with minimal feeding a few times a day. 

Alan: How do you tie the bird down in the newspaper so it can't move?

Al Neese: Alan, you just Roll the bird up in it a tape it.

Rene: Yes, Alan, legs backwards, crop up and roll it in a newspaper. It will automatically be a bit tapered and from the top you can check if the bird is relatively comfortable.

I also dock the crops of a few of the chronic cases. Below is a picture of a newly docked crop. I pull a piece of about 1" of skin at the lower or middle part of the crop and rap a rubber band around the skin I want removed. The blood circulation will stop and the skin will fall off over a period of time. It is supposed to be painless for the bird and he won't have anymore problems. They eat and drink they please without a problem. This only removes a portion of the front of the crop. It does not effect the digestive tubes. The crop size is reduced but in most cases it still keeps it's basic shape. Be careful not to dock too deeply. I now use a Castration ring applicator to dock the birds. It's much more efficient than putting the rubber band on by hand.