Pendulous crop in backyard chickens can be a stressful event to manage.

You might even be wondering what pendulous crop even IS, especially if you’re a new chicken mama or papa. Well, I’m not going to pretend pendulous crop isn’t serious – it can definitely be an issue and it must be addressed. Without taking care of it, your chicken might not absorb the nutrients she needs and eventually, will waste away, lose weight, and die.

In this article, I’m going to tell you exactly what pendulous crop in backyard chickens is, and how to deal with it. At the end, you’ll have a good idea of how to handle this situation, should you ever need to help one of your chickens!

What is pendulous crop?

You might have noticed the word “pendulous” in pendulous crop, and that’ll give you a starting point to understand this health issue. In case you don’t know, the crop is part of your chicken’s digestive system. It’s where food is stored and begins the breaking down process.

As you can imagine, it’s critical the crop is healthy and in good shape to help your hen digest her food. When a hen gets pendulous crop, it can be due to a couple things:

  • The crop is impacted, and the weight of the food the hen consumes is getting heavier and stretching the crop.
  • The hen might also be anatomically predisposed to having pendulous crop, meaning her crop is larger, or naturally sags more than it should.

Either way, the crop has become impacted and needs to be cleared out.

You might wonder what the difference between pendulous crop and impacted crop is. Basically, pendulous crop is a type of impacted crop.

pendulous crop backyard chickens
Photo courtesy of Heretha Bell

Why does pendulous crop happen?

Simply put, the reason pendulous crop happens in backyard chickens is because the crop stretches due to too much food or possibly the anatomy of the chicken.  After your hen swallows food, for whatever reason (possibly a piece of food that’s too big, too much food, etc.), her meal gets stuck, and can’t leave the crop.

As your hen eats more and more, the pieces of food then sit there, fermenting, and not getting passed through the digestive system. While pendulous crop is an issue by itself, it also means the chicken isn’t getting nutrients, and eventually, the chicken can die of starvation.

How do I know whether my hen has pendulous crop?

If you see her crop is bulging and sagging and possibly moving around (meaning, it doesn’t feel like a nice, right, round ball about the size of a peach), she might have pendulous crop.

If you notice her crop isn’t smaller in the morning or if your backyard chicken looks physically poorly or sick, then she might have crop issues. It’s always best to double check with a vet!

pendulous crop in backyard chickens
Photo courtesy of Heretha Bell

What can I do about pendulous crop?

First, make sure the chicken actually has a crop issue by keeping her off food for 24 hours (still give water). When crops are full, they can be quite large – anywhere from the size of a golf ball (in a young chicken) to the size of a peach or orange in an adult.

So, you should first determine whether the crop is actually functioning. If you stop food for 24 hours, and notice the crop becomes completely empty the next day (for example, it was very full and now you can’t see much of a lump at all), the crop is working the food towards the rest of her digestive system and likely not impacting.

If it’s still full and you know she hasn’t eaten anything, her crop is likely impacted (you’ll want to double check this with a vet).  To empty the crop, you will have to “burp” your chicken (which is not as much fun as it sounds).  Burping consists of helping your hen regurgitate the feed that’s in her crop, and (hopefully) removing whatever is causing the crop to be impacted. You can read full instructions about dealing with impacted crop and emptying it in this article.

After the crop is empty, keep the hen off food for another 24 hours (still give water) and observe her closely for signs of additional problems. (Double check with a vet about any signs you should look for in your particular backyard chicken – they’re all different).

You can then slowly reintroduce food, making sure it’s in small pieces. If you’re still concerned, you can err on the side of caution and offer moistened food that’s easy for your backyard chicken’s digestive system to break down.

You can also mix raw organic apple cider vinegar WITH THE MOTHER (more on apple cider vinegar here) into her water – the beneficial bacteria will help her digestive system. We also have apple cider vinegar granules in the store, which are a shelf-stable probiotic.

You can also offer dried oregano with her feed, and parsley (which are both full of amazing nutrients for chickens).

As for food, dried river shrimp are a good option – they’re small and easy for beaks to break apart. They’re also very high in protein, and if your hen is still recovering and nervous, they’re very tempting for even the pickiest eater.

You can also mix their feed with brewer’s yeast, if you want to make sure your hen is getting plenty of vitamins after her bout with pendulous crop. Our brewer’s yeast is fortified with vitamin B 3, B6, and B12 and garlic, oregano, and echinacea (all herbs traditionally used to support healthy immune systems).

It’s important to remember that if your backyard chicken gets an impacted and pendulous crop once, it’s possible she might get it again. The best thing to do is keep an eye on your backyard chicken and double check the crop is working correctly, and you don’t see any further signs of pendulous crop.

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5 Comments

  1. Very good and informative article very well written and being new to this I didn’t know anything about this. thanks

  2. Good information. I actually had a bantam cochin pullet with this condition. I nursed her along for a couple of months, but after several weeks I was no longer able to empty her crop. She became very week and stopped eating. I decided to humanely put her down. Out of curiosity and to try to learn about her condition, I performed a necropsy. (I’m a retired board certified, nurse assistant at surgery.) Her crop was impacted with sand. We have very sandy soil.

    1. Wow…I thought I was the only one using that term. We had a darling Ameraucana who was seemingly predisposed to a pendulous crop. She started by eating way too much long strands of grass and we had a mild impaction. I’ve purged more crop than I ever would admit to in a court of law, but I’ll tell you…. it really is a help. Over the long haul it probably was what killed her, just got way past what we could fix. She was such a great hen and taught us more than we ever did for her I’m sure. She was also our first bumblefoot surgery, and had to put her beak on with some superglue. Man.. what a ride this chicken parenting is. Thanks for the information always.

  3. One way to prevent this condition is if you have straw in your chicken coop get rid of it! Chickens will nibble at it and increase their chances of geting this condition. Good article. thanks for the awsome information!

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