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#77897 - 06/28/07 07:05 PM Basic digestive question
Susie Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 1902
Loc: Arkansas
Does anyone know how long food stays in the crop of a chicken?

I've dealt with so many broodies so far this year, and I was taking them off the nest once a day to make sure they were taking care of business, as many are young and this was their first time. Anyway, it occurred to me as I lifted one and she had a full crop, maybe feeling their crop was all I needed to do. If they've been up and eating that day, their crop should feel full. Then I started wondering, out of curiousity, how long the feed stays there. If I handle a broody and she has nothing in her crop, do I assume she didn't eat that day? And if I feel plenty of feed in there, she's good?

What do you think?

#77898 - 06/28/07 10:55 PM Re: Basic digestive question
CJR Offline
Coop Master

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 8499
Loc: Montana
Actually, I don't believe it "stays" in the crop at all, as no digestion takes place. It is continually funneled into the very small stomach for some enzymes, heading right for the gizzard, where is it "processed" like an electric mixer. It is a continuous process,then going into the intestines, where nutrients, moisture, is absorbed and the rest turned into poop, dropped all day. Chickens eat until the crop is full, then rest while it has a chance to empty enough to eat some more. If they go to roost with a full crop, it is empty by morning, and they generate a lot of poop all night. A setting hen cannot poop all day and night, so when she fills her crop when she gets off to eat, it collects that huge stinky one and eliminates it when she gets off the nest, maybe only once or twice a day.
The crop has no muscle, (chickens can't spit up-- but water or feed can overflow). It is just a tough sack with an opening at top and bottom,a muscle at the bottom that will relax and let the food through--or if a chicken is sick, it may not let any through and a chicken simply stops eating. We can throw up, if we are sick, a chicken cannot, so stops eating. Otherwise, it is a continuous process of filling and emptying, interrupted only by nighttime roosting. It is when it is truly full, that a hen rests during the day, while it is emptying again! Chickens run a lot of "stuff" through the system every day. And of course, the "teeth" is the grit that stays in the gizzard until worn down and replaced. While chickens will eat a great variety of things, some pretty repulsive, free range birds are pretty selective and do a good job of locating that which is nutritious and digestable! Interesting creatures! I really like them! CJR

#77899 - 06/29/07 12:20 AM Re: Basic digestive question
Foehn Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 08/08/06
Posts: 1973
Loc: New Zealand
I know small birds have a 20 minute digestion process. Not sure of the length of time for hens, but it would be comparable. And yes, as CJR says, it is a continuous process while there is food in the crop. Only interuption in this "Assembly line" style of feeding would be if there is an impaction in the crop. Your observations about the "full" and "empty" crops with your broodies would certainly be a good indication about whether they have been off the nest to feed or not. With my broodies, I lift them off the nest at each end of the day, just to make sure they eat, drink, exercise, and pass that big poop. Some determined sitters will not get off, so this is just insurance really against loss of weight and the risk of the poop ending up on the eggs.

#77900 - 06/29/07 04:45 AM Re: Basic digestive question
Joachim Dippold Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1823
Loc: Austria
Hello Susie,

not exactly what you want to know, but maybe you can get some infos or new search-words out of this nevertheless? Hereīs an article:

I donīt find the reference now, but I think I have read that chickens need around 3 hours to process their food.

Hope itīs of interest and best greetings,



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