Last weekend while I was pottering in the garden I saw Gerty doing the most disturbing dance. She was bending her neck side to side just like you do when you walk like an Egyptian. I have found chickens to have a large vocabulary of odd and wonderful behaviour. But this was like nothing I had ever seen before and it certainly wasn't wonderful. In fact I was scarred I wouldn't see her alive the following morning. At the time I had suspected she had gotten something stuck in her neck and I just hoped it wasn't something I had miss fed her.
Well the next day she was fine. It appeared she had worked the Egyptian out of her system and was walking and eating normally. All week she has appeared well, except this weekend I noticed she has developed a swollen chest. Now I am back to being concerned.
After some internet research I have come to learn that the swollen area is her stomach, or crop, as it is called in chickens. The area can apparently often appear swollen just after the chicken has fed, but should be gone by morning. This however is not the case for Gerty. Continued research revealed that, even though uncommon, chickens can get tough grasses, straw, sawdust, hard grains or meat bones lodged in their crop. The strange neck movements are an attempt to dislodge the blockage. Over time the blockage will either start to rot and cause a condition called sour crop or will harden, known as an impacted crop.
The treatments I have found have me rather nervous. For sour crop the recommendation is to make the chicken vomit. This however is highly dangerous. If any of the rotten fluid ends up in the chicken’s lungs it could lead to pneumonia. And the treatment will definitely be stressful to her, and me. For impact crop the recommendation is to drip some vegetable oil down her throat to help lubricate the blockage. Once again this comes with a very big warning as it is easy to get oil in the lungs.
In both cases, from what I have read, it is recommended to stop feeding solids and instead put her on a diet of broth. To enable this it is suggested that she be isolate from her brood. However I am nervous the stress of being isolated will do more harm than good. So starting tomorrow I am not going to feed any of the chickens solids and only provide them with broth. I am sure the other girls will cope. I will however not be able to stop her from feeding from what's in the ground. I might also add some olive oil to the broth.
I would love to hear other peoples experiences or advise.