Impacted Crop Treatment: Saving Our Choking Chick

what chickens can eat

This is our mama Silkie Hen, and her six cute-as-a-button little chickies (one’s hiding behind her).

Aren’t Silkies the funniest, cutest chickens you’ve ever seen?

They’re just too posh to put in the coop with the rest of the flock. No. These beauties have their own special coop all to themselves.

Unfortunately, her rooster (who was also quite a character himself) disappeared about a week ago. Guess a fox got him, poor fella.

Also unfortunately, two of these chicks mysteriously died today. I’m not sure what went wrong, but I found one dead in the yard, and the other abandoned and very weak. I tried to nurse it with sugar water, but it died a little while later.

And then, as if that wasn’t sad enough, when I was putting the hen and her chicks up for the night I noticed one of the babies doing some funky thing where she would stretch her neck up toward the sky, open her beak, and act like she was trying to gulp something down. She just kept doing it, over and over again.

My hand took a beating as the protective mother attacked me when I reached into the cage, but I was finally able to get a hold of the baby chick and bring it inside for a closer examination.

I watched as the chick opened its mouth and stretched its neck upward again, and I could see that there was food or something packed in the back of her throat. She was getting weaker by the second.

We couldn’t just let it die! So, Jerry and I went to work trying to do whatever we could to help.

Holding the chick on its back, I held its beak open while Jerry reached in with tweezers and carefully removed what globs of food he could get. When we couldn’t get any more out, I used a dropper to put two drops of olive oil into the chick’s beak to loosen the remaining food.

I rubbed and rubbed her neck, trying to free the clump from her throat. I had no idea if it would do any good. Her head was rolling back, and her eyes were closing. I knew I was losing her.

I just kept talking to the poor little thing, and massaging her crop. She gasped once again, but this time I couldn’t see any food stuck in the back of her throat. She’d swallowed it down!

I put her beak to a little bit of water, hoping maybe to wash down whatever might be left.

And after a minute, she stopped gasping and was chirping again!

I put her back outside with her mother, whom she was happy to quickly work her way underneath to join her siblings in the warmth of the hen’s body for the night.

My only guess is that she’d had an impacted crop. I REALLY hope she makes it!! I’ll check on her first thing in the morning.

UPDATE (next morning): I’m happy to say the chick is FINE! So glad she made it alright.

Do you have any experience treating an impacted crop?

About Kendra 1107 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.


  1. I have a question. I’m reading all of your stories about food jammed in your chicks mouths and my chick is about 5 months old and she is opening and closing her mouth while stretching her neck. I don’t know whats happening. it looks too forced to be a yawn. I can’t check inside her mouth because she won’t open it.

    • It might have food stuck in there. I’ve had chicks do what you’re describing and sometimes they die and sometimes they don’t. How is it today?

  2. Same thing just happened to me, hence me looking it up and finding this page 🙂 bough in my chicks case it seems to be loosing weight and not growing like the others, I’ve been working none stop and out of all the chicks I have any spare time I couldn’t quite tell which one it was before I had to go into something else, I just assumed it was a runt. Well today I gave them a bit extra time and found that one who seemed to be dropping weight, it was stretching its neck like it was trying to swallow so I dipped it beak but it didn’t drink at all, so I opened its mouth to find food packed into its entire mouth!! Poor thing must have started to choke(yet somehow was still breathing and chirping?!) and was starting to starve!! There was a lump of feed stuck in its throats that went all the way into its mouth, it was jam packed badly so I started massaging the food up and it started to come out of its mouth, I took tweezers and pulled bits and pieces out until the throats was clear enough for it to drink some, poor little chick finally drank some water and it’s throats is now completely clear.

    • Hello, my pullets are 3 weeks old, I have 2 leghorn and 2 Buffs, my biggest Buff started choking this afternoon, we watched to observe and started looking online for what the problem is; she is gasping for air and not drinking. I have been giving her drops of water from a syringe and alternating drips of vegetable oil along with her chirping and trying to get out of my hand. She went to sleep for a bit, but she is still making the same head movement and not looking right. My question is how long will it take to get better? We have had them for a week and this is our first issue with them.

      • I had checked the but area, all 4 had that a few days ago, cleaned it it a small tub of warm water, but today I noticed that it looks like she is trying to poop but nothing comes out – I can see it pulsing but but is closed. Is this the problem? I was not sure how to free the but hole?

  3. I have baby chicks that I got at local store. several have had the problem of grasping for air. I did the old fashion thing running a straw of grass down the throat. didn’t seem to be a blockage ; so I checked the butt . I found that the poop had crusted on in a little ball. the chick could not poop so was not eating or drinking much. I had to soak for minutes to get freed and clean . the chick started chirping ; but acted somewhat dehydrated. gave some water with small dropper in supplies from wal mart.

  4. Just lost a chick to yhis exact sitaution a couple days ago. Did what I could in the few minutes available, but just couldn’t find the right info fast enough. Still researching and reading to be ready next time (1st time chick daddy) but this posting nicely rounds things out. I know this post is old, but thank you for the info and thanks to the commentors for xtra info. Much appreciated.

  5. Thanks for this post, as we are dealing with this now! But how in the world did you hold the chick’s mouth open? I’ve been trying, but the beak is so tiny and there is no way to get a grip.

    • I used a needle once with a limp chick. It sounds scary but I didn’t know what else to use and was careful to slide it in to part the beak without getting the tongue

  6. I took an Xacto knife to the crop of one of my baby roos. He was a heritage breed that was very expensive, in spite of his maleness, so I was not losing a single bird. I squeezed it taught, made a tiny slit, squeezed the goo out, rinsed with betadine, and SUPER GLUED THAT SUCKER BACK TOGETHER!

    We named him Rocky because, of course….he’s a fighter. Grew up big and strong–Best Roo in the whole yard!

    Its pretty empowering to save the life of a small animal. Something as small as that can give you confidence to suture a nasty gash later…which I have also done. Might have to man up for a whole lot more someday, so practice makes perfect.

  7. Kendra, I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this. Because of this post we were able to save our new chick. We just got our chicks yesterday in the mail, all were healthy and doing well. Then, all of a sudden one started stretching it’s neck out like it was trying to swallow but couldn’t, it was choking. I immediately remembered this post and said to my daughter, “quick, go find Kendra’s post about the choking chick”…she did and we quickly swung into action. Long story short, we were able to get the food out and the little thing started cheeping again…music to our ears! She is now doing great. (We are using chick crumbles, but some of the pieces seem a little big to me. We are looking through it and breaking it up a little more for these first few days.)

    If it had not been for your post, I’m not sure if we would have realized what was happening. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us. YHWH bless you and your family.

  8. Oh my gosh!!! Thank goodness she was ok! I was so worried as I read that story..boy am I glad you already had the update there….your chick would have been on my mind for hours!

  9. I have had to treat an adult hen for an impacted crop. It entailed putting a rubber tube down her throat and flushing with water then holding her upside down to let it run out her mouth. You have to be careful not to get the rubber tube in the tube in her throat which you can see when you look down the throat. It worked but unfortunately only for a few days. The muscles that work the crop where worn out and had lost there elasticity. (there is a name for that which escapes me at the moment). Your chicks may benefit from some chick grit. You can get it at the feed store. There is also a very helpful book called The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow. I wouldn’t be without it.

  10. We ended up having 19 chicks hatch from a batch of fertile eggs we got from a chicken micro-farm when our hen went broody in May. Of those 19, 4 of them died within a few weeks of hatching, and then one was hurt somehow while we were away at work yesterday. I was wondering how many of your flock get taken by predators? I am thinking it was a hawk that got our 6 week old chicky baby. 🙁 I am praying that the hawk doesnt take any more of them, as we are down to 14. It is difficult trying to raise your own meat with these types of numbers. I am wondering if we are doing the right thing by allowing all of our hens (3) and chicks (14) to be free-range except for at night.

    I am so glad you figured out what was wrong with your chicky baby! What a great mama (of all creatures) you are!

  11. Poor little thing 🙁 I’m so glad you were able to save it’s life! It sure is tough losing your chickens…I know.

    Best wishes with the rest of her brood!

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