A tough call: thoughts on not culling a chicken

From time to time good animal husbandry practice would recommend that you cull a sick animal.  I have a sick chicken and was coming to grips with that fact for a week now.

The problem?  An impacted crop.  Evidently, she had eaten something that was blocking her crop, and it had become engorged.  It was three times the normal size and…

“What did she eat?” you ask.

Who knows with chickens!  It could have been anything, a piece of plastic, some straw, a length of string or a large blade of grass, any of which can be fatal if it gets lodged at the exit of their crop.  The diagram below shows you that number 4 is the crop.  This is a pigeon’s inside view, but it is very much based on the same organs as the chicken possesses.

Photo credit HERE

You may click for greater detail or just take my word for it that it is the large organ at the base of the neck and resting at the opening of the chest cavity.  😉

In an effort to avoid further impaction which could lead to infection and death, I began a twice daily regimen of massaging my poor little barred rock‘s crop.  She didn’t like it, and squawked in protest each time.  I can’t blame her!   A couple of days during this time I felt we were making some progress, but then by Sunday she had become very weak and thin.  She had wobbly knees but was trying to eat in spite of the over-full crop.  I continued to watch her closely for signs of other sickness that would be contagious to the rest of my chickens.  While an impacted crop will not affect the others, a distressed and weakened chicken can fall ill to various pathogens in the environment. If not carefully monitored she can then spread these to the whole flock.

Monday night I went out to lock up the Chicken Palace and she was sitting low on the roost.  Her feathers were fluffed up, her head was sunken into her shoulders, and her comb had gone pale.  I expected her to be gone by morning and told Bob my suspicions.

Tuesday morning I went out to the chicken yard and tried to prepare myself to do what was necessary if she was still lingering.  I opened the door and as is always the case the girls and Grayson came bounding out looking for breakfast, and so did the little barred rock!  I watched as she drank lots of water, ate like there was no tomorrow, and nearly nosed dived each time she bent down to do so.  It was then that I noticed her comb was a bright red like is should be and her frontal profile was much reduced!

So my little Barred Rock looks awful and puny,

but she is definitely on the mend!


It was a tough call, but I’m so glad I waited before doing anything rash.

18 thoughts on “A tough call: thoughts on not culling a chicken

  1. ceciliag says:

    I know exactly what you mean. Especially with chickens, I have been astounded at their ability to bounce back from looking death and you in the eye, then you go out one morning and perfectly healthy speciman is dead in a corner.. no accounting for it.. c

    • pixilated2 says:

      Thanks Cecilia, it’s hard. I raise mine for eggs and meat, but there are a few with such distinct personalities that the line becomes blurred… I am thankful that, so far, I have not had the experience of finding one dead for unexplained reasons. However, this little henny has beaten the odds and will not become dinner!

    • pixilated2 says:

      Thanks Kerry! Being pragmatic the possibility of loosing animals in my care is always there, but I was very relieved. 🙂

    • pixilated2 says:

      Oh Julie it is! You wonder the whole time am I doing the right thing? Is she suffering? It seems to be working out for the best, though tonight she was tucked into a nest box to sleep. I’m guessing it makes her feel more secure and keeps her warm through the night. ~ L

    • pixilated2 says:

      Thank you Skip, however, I think you have the eye of an optimist. 😉 She will recover her loveliness when she finishes her molt and gains back some weight, the poor baby. ~ L

  2. littlesundog says:

    I think it was a chicken from whence the saying, “Tough, old bird”! We have barred rocks too! Earl (the outside rooster that I am NOT fond of) and Hugo (the indoor rooster that Earl picks on) look after the girls all day. I have my favorites… Mildred (who is lame), Ms. Gulch (from the Wizard of Oz), and Uno (the one-eyed wonder). I’m so happy your girl worked through her problem!

    • pixilated2 says:

      You know I think about that whenever I deal with a chicken injury. They can suffer such horrible mishaps and yet they heal and survive. Yes, truly the term must have been coined for a chicken! I love your chicken’s names! ~ L

    • pixilated2 says:

      Patti, Thank you! Although, was and will be again might be closer to the truth! Oh, but she is putting on weight pretty quickly! I think that by spring, or sooner, I will not be able to tell her apart from the rest. 🙂 ~ L

    • pixilated2 says:

      Cindy, I never know with my critters if they will make it or not. I try to help them holistically, but I am not opposed to medications if all else is not working! In this instance the only other option would have been to take her to the vet. The avian vet is almost 90 miles away… She is still a bit wobbly, but seems to be putting on weight. LOL, she laid an egg yesterday. It was the size and shape of a jawbreaker. Poor baby. ~ L

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