Crop and Digestive Problems... Advanced Procedures for the Aviculturist


I t's 10 P.M. on a Saturday night and you have a baby that has GI stasis, what do you do? The vet office is closed until Monday, and this baby needs help now. What can you do? Or you've found a baby weak, dehydrated with a large bloated crop full of mucous fluid in the nest. It looked fine that morning, and now it is so weak it can't stand up. From past experiences you've always lost these babies. Along with the loss was the helpless and frustrated feeling of: 'what more could I have done?' Many times you can't take the risk of taking it to a vet for fear of the stress of the trip and handling will put the baby over the edge.

These are a just a few of the emergency type situations where you have to act quickly to give the baby the most beneficial supportive care possible, and to stabilize the system until you can get to

your vet.

This article is not going to focus on the causes of these situations, but several advanced life saving procedures that every serious breeder should at least have the knowledge of and supplies to have on hand just in case. Being prepared in advance can make the difference between life and death.

Several of the more advanced emergency procedures require knowledge of how to do subcutaneous fluid therapy, emptying and flushing a crop, doing injectable medications, using


crop bras, and several other diagnostic techniques. The best source for being shown in advance of future problems, and obtaining the supplies needed for some of the emergency situations discussed in this article is from your vet. Develop a good relationship with your vet prior to any major life-threatening emergencies. Hopefully you may never have to use many of the emergency procedures mentioned below - but it is good to have the knowledge when needed.

GI (gastrointestinal) Stasis

One of the most dreaded situations a handfeeder can face is total crop and/or GI (gastrointestinal) stasis. Or the worse scenario would be a chick that has a bloated, overstretched crop, with dehydration, chilled, and very scant black tarry


feces. This can happen in the nest, sometimes within hours. Simple common treatments will not help in these rare situations. In fact, the 'wait and see' approach will cost this type of chick its life. When found like this, the chick is in need of several advanced emergency procedures to save it.

The first priority with any sick chick is heat. If there is severe dehydration, humidity levels have to be available and higher. Heat and humidity are vital tools to help the chick conserve body reserves. The additional humidity will also help slow further dehydration. Thus, even with the proper heat, if a chick gets too dehydrated, not only does this effect body fluids, and organ function, but blood fluid volume is lessened.

All of this will contribute to the

chick not being able to maintain it's own body heat. Also, if there is no digestion, and the chick has a full crop, this can be another source of body heat loss. Food that is in the crop will also use up precious body reserves to generate heat to both warm the crop contents and the body in contact with it. lf there is little to no movement from the GI tract, crop contents should be removed to help the chick conserve body heat.

Probably the most common mistake that can be made is thinking it is the crop itself that is the problem. Rarely is this the case. In simple terms, the crop is a just holding reser-

voir for the food prior to entering the body and delivering food through the GI (gastrointestinal) tract. For illustrative purposes, think of the crop as the bowl part of a sink, and the entry to the body as the drain. If your sink is not draining. obviously there is a cause. It could be as simple as something poured down the drain that has slowed drainage, to something major such as a collapsed septic tank. With chicks it could be as simple as getting chilled, thus slowing digestion, to total GI stasis.

Many times infections (be it yeast or bacterial), dehydration, obstructions, etc. can prevent the crop from emptying. Problems can occur between the 'ingluvies' (crop) and 'supraduodenal loop' (intes-

tine). The esophagus is at the base of the crop and it is t.he entry into the GI tract. Food will travel from the esophagus to the proventriculus, then the isthmus, and finally the ventriculus (gizzard) before entering the intestines. Problems can occur in any of these areas. When there is dehydration, infection, or impaction, this can also affect the efficiency of these organs. The worse the cause is, the slower the GI tract moves ... thus slowing down, or preventing the crop from emptying. In summary, the crop is simply an external organ alerting you to an internal problem that needs to be corrected.

There are a couple of things you can do that act both as a diagnostic and supportive care that can help determine where the problem is.

First, you will need to empty and flush the crop, especially if it contains gassy, sour, contents. There are several ways to empty a crop, which either your vet or an experienced breeder can show you how to do properly. You can make simple crop emptying tool using a children's medicine syringe (has a larger opening at the tip) and a 5" length (using the closed encl) of size 14 Fr.