Well, you can add one more thing to the list of things I never thought I would do in a million years. I operated on a hen tonight and performed crop surgery.
She has been impacted for at least three weeks, getting more and more frail. I’ve had her inside and have been feeding her soft foods and olive oil and doing regular deep tissue massages in an effort to break up the hard mass in her crop. When she could no longer eat and it was apparent she was having difficulty swallowing and was skin and bones I felt I had no choice but to try and save her. When I laid her on her side to examine her, black foul-smelling liquid began pouring out. So, I first held her upside down for about 20 minutes while massaging the crop and being very careful that her head stayed down so that she would not choke or inhale and drown on the awful black smelling liquid that just kept pouring out of her mouth. There must have been at least a cup of it to come out.
Then I was able to examine her and the crop was still the size of a softball or larger and hard. I knew I had to open her up. I got my trusty assistant Boaz to help. His job was to hold her. We laid her on her side and covered her head with a towel and she NEVER moved, never flinched. In fact, at one point, he said “I don’t think she’s still with us” and wanted to move the towel or rouse her to see if she was still alive. But I knew since she had not so much as flinched that she was still alive and I just kept working on her. The following pictures say it all – they are graphic but informative. Only time will tell if she will recover but as soon as I finished stitching her back up (first the crop, twice, and then the outer skin) she sat up and looked around and started walking around.
Here is when I first started pulling out all the mass of hay/straw/grass that was in her:
Here is some of it after I got it out – looks like she ate a nest.
Here you can see the incision (about an inch) after the crop was emptied and before I stitched it closed:
And here is the outer stitching that closed up the skin.
Just had to do another crop surgery so I took pics of all steps. This one was a little different. Husband came in with a hen in his arms and said “feel this”. She (her crop) was huge, and hard. It was all the way up her neck and all across her chest. It was hard as a rock. She was gasping for air. To make matters worse it seems as if either the roosters had gotten to her while she was on the ground and/or our dog Scarlett, while rescuing her, had sent her into shock. Scarlett is our GSD and is great with the chickens. When she hears a hen scream she goes running. She will pull the roosters off the hen and sit with her between her legs. Sometimes she carries them back to the coop, very gently, by their head and/or neck (they are not fond of this). But most often she just sits with the hen. Husband said he found Scarlett sitting by this one and picked it up thinking she was dead. She wasn’t, but she was bleeding from her nose and eyes and could not lift her head. I thought she was dying and was sure she would. I also thought there might be a possiblity that the crop was so huge and backed up that it was cutting off circulation and air flow. In any event, I opened her up immediately thinking she wouldn’t make it another minute if I didn’t. I felt there was no time to isolate her all night and see if it was down in the morning. Besides, I’ve never seen any crop as huge, hard and backed up as high as it was.
Here are the photos – after I dug all the packed in food out:
Here’s what came out of her:
A huge, heavy bowl of packed feed and fermented corn. The smell of the fermented corn was awful. Then I realized she was probably drunk since that’s how she acted. She actually snored through the surgery. I had to keep picking her up and washing her off because the food just kept coming out of her and I would even hold her head up during the surgery and she acted like she was asleep, she was like a rag doll. No need to wrap her up and cover her head – she was really out of it.
Here’s the incision when I first made my cut through the outer layer and into the crop. You can see the food start to bulge out on its own – you’ll also see there’s virtually no bleeding whatsoever:
Here’s the crop after I cleaned it out. I had to make an incision big enough to get my finger in so that I could feel around and dig everything out. It’s also important to feel all the way down and into the tube that goes out of the crop and into gizzard. You’ll feel the tube and the muscles trying to force your finger down, once you have everything cleaned out.
Here’s how I sew up the crop:
First – make a stitch at one end leaving a long piece of string after you tie it off – but don’t cut the thread from the needle. Use the long piece to gently pull the crop out of the incision area so that you can sew it up.
Then I make loop d’loops up one side:
And back down the other and tie it off to the piece of string I’ve been using to hold onto:
Now stitch up the other skin. It’s easiest to make simple tie knot stitches – use as many as you need to close all gaps.
Immediately afterwards – The patient calmly sleeping in a kennel in the house afterwards. I do swear she was drunk and is still sleeping it off. I’m hoping she will be better by morning.
I don’t think there’s any way she ate this much today so I’m thinking at some point she gorged herself and it was impacted and she just kept eating and it kept getting bigger and bigger and then the corn started fermenting.
I hope the pictures and steps help others who have to do this – it’s really easy and will save their lives.