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#14117 - 03/27/09 08:35 PM Long strands of cut grass: IMPACTED CROP DANGER

Hi everyone. I'm new to the discussion board, but I wanted to warn everyone who doesn't already know that they shouldn't give long strands of cut grass to their birds - it can be an impacted crop hazard. Please keep this in mind as spring rolls in and all that new grass is growing.

Below please find the letter I just had to write to the nice lady at, from whom I purchased my wonderful Buff Orpington, Big Yellow, who sadly passed away today.

"Hi Lissa,

I'm sorry to say that my beautiful girl passed away today. I took her to the vet who found that she had an impacted crop. Hence the odd neck stretching/rolling motions. She made it through the surgery ok, but had a cardiac arrest as she was coming off the anesthesia.

Please, please, in your excellent chicken care/health pages (which I highly commend you for), please make a note somewhere that chickens should never be given long strands of cut grass to eat. Because of all the new fresh spring grass growing in our area, I had been cutting handfulls and giving it to my girls as greens.

When they ingest long strands they can get tangled up in a big wad in their crop and cause a blockage, which is what happened to the sweetest gal in my flock.

Apparently, when chickens "pick" the grass themselves while it's still growing (that is, not when its already been cut), they tear off shorter more manageable pieces, so there is less risk.

So if you post this and it prevents just one owner from making the same mistake I did, they Big Yellow will not have passed away in vain. I direct you to the following website for a similar account, which happily turned out better for that hen:

How the crop got impacted because of long cut grass (and the DIY procedure that the author used to do, but no longer attempts):

How the vet emptied the crop (and the dangers of trying to do this procedure yourself):

Please post this soon to your pages, as I imagine with spring arriving, perhaps others will unknowingly do the same.

Thanks so much for all your help. And thankfully my other three gals are doing fine.

All best,


San Francisco, CA"

#14118 - 03/27/09 11:15 PM Re: Long strands of cut grass: IMPACTED CROP DANGER
Hazel Offline
New Egg

Registered: 01/14/09
Posts: 6
Loc: Oregon
So sorry for your loss! Just how long is "long" grass? I'll often toss handfuls of cut grass for the hens after we mow - usually no more than 4-5 inches long. (I wish we could let them at it before we mow, but we're now in vegetable-garden-protection-mode.) They love it, but maybe it's not good for them. So much to learn!

#14119 - 03/27/09 11:19 PM Re: Long strands of cut grass: IMPACTED CROP DANGER
Uno Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 08/26/05
Posts: 1283
Loc: Canada
Indeed, when I did surgery on my hen with impacted crop, tough, long, ropey grass was balled up in a lump. Dry grass seems to be even worse than fresh green grass. Be sure too your hens have lots of grit to help grind up any grass they get into. Sorry about your hen.

#14120 - 03/28/09 08:09 AM Re: Long strands of cut grass: IMPACTED CROP DANGER

Thank you for your kind words. I miss Big Yellow.

4" or 5" inches is what I had been giving my hens too, and yes, they love it.

I'd say use a big pair of scissors to cut the grass up into pieces no more than 1" long, and only give really tender early spring grass, if any.

Imagine a piece short enough that you can't tie it in a knot or get it tangled up into a wad with other pieces while it's being worked around inside a moist crop.

Also, the vet told me that with grass in any significant quantity, more grit won't help. I though more grit might have helped my hen too, but he said that grit will help grind up seeds and grains, but it can't cut up the long fibers in the grass. It's ok to give lettuce because its structure isn't fiberous like grass.

Please pass the word along about this. It'll make me feel much better if any more uneccesary discomfort or deaths can be prevented.

Thanks all.

#14121 - 03/28/09 08:37 AM Re: Long strands of cut grass: IMPACTED CROP DANGER
Eric19 Offline
Coop Cleaner

Registered: 07/25/07
Posts: 197
Loc: Michigan
I'm so sorry you lost Big Yellow!

I remember last year, during the summer, I would give my hens handfuls upon handfuls of grass. Thankfully the grass never grew passed 2".

I knew about the fact that long grass could get stuck in a crop, but I always thought it had to be longer than say...5". But I guess I now know grass longer than 1" is not safe.

Thanks for the heads up Francoise!

Again, I'm sorry for you loss...

#14122 - 03/28/09 08:56 AM Re: Long strands of cut grass: IMPACTED CROP DANGER
CJR Offline
Coop Master

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 8501
Loc: Montana
This is why I mow the grass in my chicken pens every week while the grass is growing--keep it short. Long winter months--COLD, SNOW, the birds are never outside. I feed handfuls of green, leafy alfalfa hay in each pen--for greens and activity.
I keep chickens in their housess when it is rainy and wet, so they don't scratch the grass all out--and water the pens grass, during the summer, to keep it growing--green and short! You can feed fresh grass cuttings from the lawn mower/catcher, but not too much at a time, as it can heat up, if in a pile, and mold quickly--not a good thing.

It is so sad to lose a bird for any reason--CJR

#14123 - 03/28/09 02:28 PM Re: Long strands of cut grass: IMPACTED CROP DANGER
NW Chix Offline

Registered: 10/23/05
Posts: 93
Loc: Washington
I am sorry for your loss; I know what it is like to lose a favorite bird. While I do let my hens out into the yard at times to graze on their own, I've never given them cut grass for that reason. Instead, if I wanted to give them something green, I would give them lettuce or better yet, something from the cabbage family--kale, cabbage, or even brussels sprouts on the stem. They can peck at it on their own into appropriate-sized pieces--it keeps them busy in the coop on wet days. Or sometimes I chop it up as one of my hens has a twisted beak and cannot peck like a normal chicken. I have even gotten greens and other vegetables from the produce person at the grocery store. Kale is really easy to grow, and will even withstand our sometimes freezing Pacific Northwest winters.

#14124 - 04/26/09 04:55 AM Re: Long strands of cut grass: IMPACTED CROP DANGER
Putter Offline

Registered: 04/20/08
Posts: 17
Loc: West Virginia
Thank you for the information. I have a girl right now that has an inpacted crop. I now know the cause because I did throw long grass for them. I won't do that again. I will try to empty the crop myself or will get professsional help. Thank you for your insight.

#14125 - 04/26/09 09:54 AM Re: Long strands of cut grass: IMPACTED CROP DANGER
C. G. McCary Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 04/04/07
Posts: 613
Loc: Alabama
I learned this the hard way as well. I used to put my grass clippings in the yard when I mowed. The hens would eat & eat the grass. Last year, I had a pullet who ate too much long grass clippings and got an impacted crop. I separated her with only water.

I was about to attempt the surgery myself but talked to my regular dog vet who suggested that I first try this.

Using a plastic surgical tube (we had one for a human infant), open the bird's mouth; on the bottom of the mouth, make sure you see the trachea (windpipe) -- do not go near it! Instead move the tube along the roof of the mouth, down the throat all the way to the crop. My pullet struggled none after the tube was inserted. Then, with a syringe, shoot mineral oil directly into the crop. Massage the crop real good, gently. Do this twice a day for 2-3 days. Give the bird only water. IT WORKED!

I did not have to do surgery as this mineral oil worked after a couple of days. I no longer give my birds the grass clippings from the yard. I still give them grass at the end of the day (after they have ingested their grain feed) & I make sure it is finely cut.

I am very sorry for your loss.


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