In the poultry world, the sour crop is a common problem. But that does not make it any less dangerous.

If you leave a chicken with an untreated sour crop for a long time, it might lose too much weight and eventually die. It will also be in a lot of pain – just so you know.

You don’t want that happening, we know. And so, here in this post, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about sour crop in chickens. We’ll be exploring everything from what it is to how you can effectively treat it.

Let’s get started!

What is Sour Crop in chickens?

What is Sour Crop in chickens

A sour crop is a digestive disorder in chickens wherein the yeast or bacteria in their crop overgrows. This, in turn, causes the contents of the crop to become thicker and pasty.

Hence, the chicken is unable to pass the material in the crop to the stomach, which further causes blockage and messes up digestion.

To understand this properly, let us first understand how digestion really works in chickens.

Essentially, a chicken’s digestive system comprises six major parts. These are:

  1. Mouth
  2. Esophagus
  3. Crop
  4. Proventriculus
  5. Gizzard
  6. Cloaca

Amongst these, the crop is a muscular storage organ located at the base of a chicken’s neck. Under normal circumstances, it is flat before a meal and visibly puffed up after a meal. A few roosters might have a naturally large crop.

The crop basically receives food from the esophagus, moistens it, and stores it temporarily before passing it onto the proventriculus.

After passing through the proventriculus, the food reaches the gizzard where it is further digested. And then, the undigested food is simply passed out through the cloaca.

Note that, on average, a chicken’s crop may become completely empty about 4-6 hours after a meal. However, the crop is capable of holding and releasing food further into the digestive system 12 hours after food consumption.

It’s also worth noting that the crop doesn’t empty its contents in one go or all of a sudden. It does so in small quantities.

Now, the whole of a chicken’s digestive system (including the crop) houses good bacteria and yeast, which assist in the breakdown of food and digestion. However, when this bacteria or yeast overgrows, it leads to bad bacteria growth and yeast infection. And consequently, a sour crop.

As mentioned earlier, the excessive production of yeast and bacteria causes the thickening of the crop contents, which in turn, blocks the passage of food further into the digestive system. Now, why is the sour crop called ‘sour’? Find out in the next section!

Signs & Symptoms of Chicken Sour Crop

Signs & Symptoms of Chicken Sour Crop

The most distinct sign of sour crop in chickens is the putrid or sour-smelling breath of chickens. It’s basically a consequence of the unusual amounts of fermentation going on in the crop due to the presence of excessive microorganisms.

They ferment the contents of the crop and produce acidic byproducts – which then bring about a sour smell. For your chicken, it also means a sour or foul taste.

Some other symptoms of sour crop include:

  • Swollen crop: The crop of the chicken might appear bloated or larger than normal.
  • Patches in the mouth: Small whitish patches inside the mouth. In severe cases, the entire inside of your chicken’s mouth may appear white.
  • Vomit: The chicken may try vomiting the contents of its crop, and if it does, the vomited contents may appear stringy or slimy. They may also have a sour odor.
  • Reduced Appetite: The chicken may eat smaller quantities than usual. Owing to the reduced diet, the chicken may also lose weight and become lethargic.
  • Diarrhea: The chicken may pass brown watery droppings.
  • Decreased egg production: A laying hen may lay fewer eggs or it may stop laying eggs altogether.

When a chicken is severely sick and near to expiry (due to a sour crop or any other illness), you’ll notice that it’s slow for hours and bends its head towards the ground. It may also isolate from the flock and sit in a single position for hours. If you notice this, take your chicken to the vet immediately!

8 Causes of Chicken Sour Crop

8 Causes of Chicken Sour Crop

Before we hop onto the treatment for the chicken sour crop, let’s quickly check out some of the most common causes of the chicken sour crop:

  • Slow-working crops: Old chickens and a few large chicken breeds like Brahma, Cochin, and Jersey Giant naturally have slow-working crops. So, they’re more susceptible to crop issues like sour crop owing to their slow metabolism and large size.
  • Overconsumption: If chickens eat too much food or consume gallons of water in a short period of time, they can burden their natural digestive process – which can lead to sour crop.
  • Contaminated Food: Moldy food with bad bacteria or fungus puts chickens at a high risk of developing sour crop.
  • Weak Immune System: Chickens with a weakened immune system are more vulnerable to both external and internal attacks of microorganisms, and hence, have higher chances of developing sour crop.
  • Antibiotics: The use of certain antibiotics can disrupt the balance of microorganisms in a chicken’s system, which increases the chances of developing sour crop. Similarly, overuse of certain antibiotics can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria – and this can make it difficult for you to treat sour crop if it develops.
  • Internal Injury: Chickens often peck mindlessly, and they may consume foreign objects like nails, plastic items, rubber, and other kinds of share and dangerous objects. This can lead to internal injury, which can further lead to several types of digestive problems including sour crops.
  • Impacted Crop: It is a related health condition wherein the chicken’s crop becomes filled up with feed or other material, and it cannot empty properly. This build-up of food in the crop creates a stagnant environment in the crop, which leads to the growth of harmful bacteria and yeast. And in this way, it leads to sour crop. Usually, surgery is required to treat an impacted crop. So, in this case, the treatment for a sour crop is surgery too. 
  • Pendulous Crop: It is also a related health condition. In this, the chicken develops an elongated or distended crop. At times, the crop may even be hanging down below the chicken’s neck. It is usually a consequence of an impact crop and can lead to a sour crop.

How to treat chicken Sour Crop?

How to treat chicken Sour Crop

If you’re an experienced chicken keeper (i.e., have 2+ years experience in chicken keeping), there’s a good chance you can treat your chickens’ sour crop all by yourself.

But if you’re a newbie, we recommend taking your chicken to the vet as soon as you notice any of the signs and symptoms above.

Some high-alert signs that indicate your bird needs immediate professional attention are as follows:

  • It has stopped eating and drinking.
  • The crop has been hard for days.
  • The diarrhea is getting worse.
  • You’ve tried the methods below, and nothing’s working.

Now, let’s browse some ways how you can treat chicken sour crop at home:

1. Empty the Crop

If you have a flock, isolate the chicken with sour crop. Change into rough clothes or wear an apron and wrap the chicken in a towel. Now, hold your chicken upside down and gently massage its crop from bottom to top for about 15-20 seconds.

Then, bring it back to its original position. Repeat this 3-4 times until the chicken expels the fluid held inside the crop.

If the chicken does not expel, give it a go again after 3-6 hours. In the meanwhile, do not provide huge amounts of water or food to the affected chicken.

Here’s a visual demonstration of how to empty crop that’s full and swollen:

Note that you do not need to necessarily hold the chicken upside down. If it is fragile, weak, or uncomfortable, simply bend its head towards the ground – and then, conduct the same procedure.

Also, the swollen or bloated crop is painful for your chicken too. So, handle it very gently. Harsh treatment could stress your chicken emotionally and also damage it physically.

2. Adjust the Diet

For as long as your chicken is suffering through sour crop, make sure you offer it soft and wet food, such as cooked rice or oatmeal. The meals should also be smaller (less in quantity) and less frequent throughout the day (1-2 times).

If the chicken’s growing weaker and you cannot take it to the vet for some reason, increase the frequency of small meals to 3-4 times to avoid malnutrition.

3. Provide Supportive Care

Chickens with sour crop often become weak and dehydrated. So, provide them with ample amounts of fresh and clean water. Also, add electrolytes and vitamins to counter dehydration and weakness. We also recommend keeping the chicken in a warm and cozy place.

4. Administer Medications

The most surefire way to treat sour crop in chickens is to give them the medicines suggested by the vet. Once you visit the veterinarian with the affected chicken, the vet will analyze the situation, diagnose the underlying cause of the sour crop, and suggest medication accordingly.

Give it to your chicken as prescribed, and it should be fine in a few days!

Easy Ways to Prevent Chicken Sour Crop

Easy Ways to Prevent Chicken Sour Crop

By now, you know what a chicken sour crop is, what causes it, and how you can treat it. But wouldn’t it be better if you had some means of avoiding all the trouble in the first place?

Certainly, yes! So, the first thing we’d recommend is to look out for the causes of the sour crop mentioned above and do your best to eliminate them from your flock’s life. But apart from that, we also recommend the following prevention methods:

  • Add herbal additives to your chicken’s feed in appropriate quantities. We recommend adding oregano, fennel seeds, parsley, and garlic.
  • Give natural sugar-free or plain yogurt to your chickens once in a while. Also, add probiotics to the yogurt if possible.
  • Ensure your flock always has access to clean and fresh water. It’s a good idea to add some electrolytes and vitamins to their water occasionally.
  • Do not let your chickens consume too much starchy food like pasta, pizza, and bread.
  • Monitor your chickens when they are out in the open and ensure that they do not consume too much of long fibrous grasses and weed.
  • Clean the chicken coop and outdoor area regularly.
  • Ensure there’s no rotten or moldy object within their access or lying around. Remove rotting carcasses as soon as you spot any.
  • Avoid giving antibiotics to your chickens more than the prescribed time, and always follow it up with probiotics.
  • Ensure your chickens have access to ample grit.
  • Worm chickens twice a year to eliminate the internal parasites.



1. How long does sour crop last?

Normally, minor cases of sour crop last for only a few hours. However, mild cases may last a few days. And severe cases (i.e., life-threatening cases) may last for a few weeks or months.

2. Can sour crop cause my chicken to die?

Yes. If you fail to take action timely and treat your chicken, it can die from sour crop.

3. What is a good antifungal for sour crop?

Typically, it’s best to ask this question from the vet and administer the medication that they recommend. However, if you do not have access to the vet, Nystatin and Ketoconazole are some good options to consider.

Just add a little amount to the feed, and your chickens should be fine in no time!

4. Is baking soda good for sour crop?

Yes. Baking soda can help lower acidity in your chicken’s digestive system caused by the sour crop. It can also inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and yeast.

To give baking soda to your chicken for a sour crop, add ½ – 1 teaspoon (or ¼  tablespoon) of baking soda to your chicken’s drinking water. Although most chicken owners have reported success with this method, it may not work for all.

End Note

Remember, by taking a proactive approach to crop management and care, you can prevent sour crop in chickens successfully. Monitor their diet, eating habits, and overall health regularly and keep a close check on the crop’s size.

In case of any slight changes, don’t wait for things to develop. Take immediate action!

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