From the time we first got our chickens, we noticed one of them was different. Sassafras had a heavier front end, looking like she was smuggling things around in a pouch hung around her neck. And it continued to grow. Big. Like, STUPID BIG. Not knowing anything about the anatomy of a chicken, we didn't think much of it until we returned home from our vacation to discover she could no longer walk. She was crawling around (which is disturbing when you have wings) and not pooping and clearly unwell.
Mark's first instinct was to kill her.
I vetoed that idea.
Then I called the vet and discovered it would be $50 just to look at her. A chicken.
Then I turned to google and discovered that we were looking at a much higher vet bill to actually solve the problem, which we had diagnosed as an impacted crop. What's a "crop" you say? Check this out:
So, the food goes down the esophagus, hangs out in the crop, where the gravel they've also swallowed acts to grind up the food, then it carries on through the digestive system. With Sassy, her crop had a huge ball (egg sized) of undigested greens and she had been swallowing rock after rock to try to solve the problem. This left her with over two pounds of crap in there while she was slowly starving to death.
So after googling like a mad-woman I figured out how to fix it. And it was simple, really. Just slice her open, cut into the crop and empty it. Easy peasy, right?
Oh, dear God, no.
But actually, it wasn't as bad as we thought it would be. When we started, she was looking terrible, eyes glazed and energy nonexistent. Mark cut into her without a response and then into the crop, spending the next hour carefully removing the contents of her crop through a hole only slightly bigger than his index finger. I held her for that hour over a bucket, both of us cramping up from squatting and trying not to hurl at the smell of the stuff coming out of her. About 3/4 of the way through she let out a huge BAWK! that startled both of us, but then she just chilled out, started looking around and became more and more alert and energetic. By the end, she was downright sassy and while she still couldn't walk, had decided she best get away from those crazy people with the knife. In other words, she had more fight in her than we'd seen in days. She never once showed any signs of pain, which would have made the whole thing darn near impossible for me to endure.
After it was all over and we had, literally, two pounds of greens and gravel to dispose of, we put her back together, poured a ton of disinfectant over her incision and set her up with a warm towel in the house we had recently built for the new chicks we want to get. This morning I fed her a little olive oil, some arnica, made sure she was comfy and had water and smeared her incision with neosporian. She's pooping again, in great spirits, though still not able to walk, and just might recover.
But mostly crazy because I can now say that I have performed open crop surgery on a chicken, which will look lovely on my resume. Fingers crossed the patient will recover.