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Crop Problems

Learn the signs of crop problems in baby birds.

Margaret A. Wissman, DVM
Posted: January 3, 2013, 11:00 a.m. PST


When hand-feeding a baby bird, several crop problems can occur if the proper technique is not consistently utilized and the husbandry is not optimal. Crop problems in baby birds can include an over-distended crop, with resultant lack of normal emptying, crop burn, crop infection or even systemic illness.


Goffin's cockatoo
Crop problems can occur if you feed bird formula that is too hot or too cold.
Delayed emptying of the crop is often referred to as “slow crop” as the food is not being moved out of the crop in the normal frame of time. This may occur if the formula is fed at too low of a temperature, and the bird may also refuse the feeding because it is too cool. A normal healthy baby will have a vigorous feeding response. If ingested, the food passes too slowly, hence slow crop. When the food remains in the crop, sour crop can occur, which may allow bacteria and/or fungi to develop and a sour smell becomes noticeable. Crop burns happens when the formula is too hot, burning the lining of the crop. If a crop burn is not noticed early on, the scab that forms will fall off, leaving a hole in the area where food will leak out. While alarming, this is not a true medical emergency, but will require veterinary assistance to suture the hole closed.

In almost all cases of crop problems, either the baby is kept at too cool of an ambient temperature or the food is fed at the wrong temperature (either too low or too high). Another reason for crop problems would be from re-heated formula from a previous feeding, which can grow potentially dangerous organisms. If a baby is overfed, the crop muscles will become stretched out, and can no longer contract properly, resulting in organisms growing in the food retained in the crop.


In the event of crop stasis, the food must be removed within 24 hours by an avian vet. The crop must also be flushed; antibiotics and anti-fungal medications should also be administered to correct the condition.


Carefully monitor the temperature of the formula you provide your baby bird can help avoid any of these crop conditions. Always feed the correct amount of formula (approximately 10 percent of the body weight), made up exactly as directed on the label, and use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the hand-feeding formula prior to feeding. Do not heat formula in the microwave, as it can cause hot spots or inconsistencies in the overall temperature of the food. A crop bra may need to be applied to support a flaccid crop until proper tone to the crop muscles returns.

Disclaimer:’s Bird Health Index is intended for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the expertise and experience of a professional veterinarian. Do not use the information presented here to make decisions about your bird’s health if you suspect your pet is sick. If your pet is showing signs of illness or you notice changes in your bird’s behavior, take your pet to the nearest veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic as soon as possible.

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