More crop trouble
Man, this chicken thing is complicated. Dolley recovered perfectly from her impacted crop (if you're surfing around for crop info, check the February and March 2006 archives), but about three weeks later, we saw Return of Big Crop. I had heard that once a crop gets stretched out, it'll stay that way, but this time instead of containing a hard mass, her crop was softer and full of liquid, like a water balloon.
This could be a sour crop, a problem caused not by a blockage but by some sort of ailment. Antibiotics can bring on a fungal infection; for that you feed them yogurt or medicate. But it also could be bacterial or even some kind of virus.
One thing you can try is to gently turn the chicken upside down and try to get her to puke up everything in her crop. This sounds like a strange and ill-advised exercise, but yesterday we did try turning her mostly upside down and pushing gently on the crop. She tolerated it, but nothing came up.
There are also Espon salt flushes and molasses flushes, where you mix one of those ingredients with water, force it down their throat with a dropper (making sure not to get it in their lungs), and maybe that helps move everything through. But we have not had much luck forcing things in her beak, and the whole idea of putting the dropper far enough in her mouth to make sure the water didn't go down her windpipe just seemed scary.
Adding vitamins and electrolytes to their water is another recommendation--that's easy. I bought a little packet at the feed store and they'll all get vitamins for a couple weeks.
Feeding them yogurt is another easy recommendation to try. They all like it, and it's good for them. One lesson learned: never try to hide medicine in a food you want them to eat again later. Dolley was very wary of the yogurt at first because of vivid memories of the recent past--but she did eventually eat some.
We're also going to make an extra effort to keep their coop clean. Dolley's got watery droppings, too--the vet did see coccidia, little protozoa that live in their droppings, under the microscope, and prescribed antibiotics which we were never able to get down her. They're supposed to develop a natural immunity to coccidia, but with this wet weather, it could really flourish and overwhelm their immune systems. We're reluctant to medicate because you are supposed to let them build up resistance.
So: extra-clean coop, yogurt, vitamins. Fortunately she's acting normal, so as long as she's not showing any other signs of illness, we'll watch and wait. Any other ideas?