A common digestive issue budgies develop is sour crop (also known as crop stasis). The digestive system of budgies contains a food storage area called the crop, where food goes before it enters the stomach. Sour crop can develop if the crop is slow to empty and food stays in it too long.
Sometimes the crop stops working altogether, usually due to a blockage called an impacted crop. Blockages usually occur when food becomes compacted in the crop.
An impacted crop is a more serious condition than sour crop, comparable to intestinal obstruction in humans. An impacted crop usually requires immediate treatment by a veterinarian.
Adult budgies usually get sour crop from infections, systemic or metabolic diseases, heavy metal toxicities, or foreign body ingestions. Baby budgies can get sour crop from being hand-fed improperly, raised in the wrong conditions, or from diseases.
Signs of Crop Infection in Budgies
Sour crop most commonly affects hand-fed baby budgies, but adult budgies are susceptible to it as it can develop from bacterial and viral infections or diseases.
A budgie’s crop needs to be emptied within 24 hours, or infection can start to take effect. Signs of crop infection in budgies include:
- Full crop for more than 24 hours
- Lack of appetite
- Ill appearance
- Fluffing up
Here are some of the symptoms that happen more commonly than others:
Swollen and Hard Crop
A crop functioning normally will usually empty shortly after eating, but it can take a few hours. Each morning, the budgie’s crop should be empty and ready for the day’s food.
If the crop is still full after 24 hours, it’s likely that your budgie has developed sour crop and could even have an impacted crop.
If your budgie’s crop is swollen and squishy, this usually indicates the start of sour crop. When a crop becomes impacted, it may feel hard and remain swollen.
Crop stasis got the name “sour crop” because it results from a bacterial or yeast infection in the crop.
When food stays in the crop for too long, it begins to ferment or rot. The combination of the infection and the fermented food produces a sour smell emitted through the mouth.
Regurgitation and Vomiting
Budgies regurgitate their food often for a variety of reasons. However, when your budgie regurgitates more frequently, it could signify something is wrong. The regurgitated material could be a clear liquid or food that hasn’t been digested.
Regurgitation is an act that budgies and other types of birds purposely do and is different from vomiting. Vomiting occurs uncontrollably, and the uncontrollable vomiting of partially digested food may stress your budgie. If your budgie starts vomiting, you should take it to the vet immediately.
If your budgie’s crop remains full, it won’t want to eat because it already feels full and possibly uncomfortable. Your budgie may not eat until the food is emptied from the crop.
Things like lacerations or burns can sometimes cause sour crop, and if this is the case with your budgie, it may hurt too much to eat. It’s never a good thing when budgies won’t eat, and not eating can lead to other health issues, including death.
If your budgie isn’t eating at all or very little, it may be a good idea to seek veterinary care and treatment as soon as possible.
When budgies have sour crop, they may have undigested food in their droppings, diarrhea, or foul-smelling poop.
Your budgie may also poop less than normal. If you notice these abnormal droppings, especially if combined with other signs of sour crop, they should be cause for concern.
Budgies can easily become dehydrated when they have sour crop, especially if they’re regurgitating, vomiting, or have diarrhea. Try getting your budgie to drink as much water as possible.
Lack of Energy
Your budgie may suddenly be less active than usual due to insufficient food intake.
If your budgie’s crop is full, it won’t eat more food. If the crop isn’t emptying into the stomach or emptying extremely slowly, your budgie isn’t getting enough energy reserves to keep it going.
What Does Sour Crop Sound Like?
If your budgie has sour crop, you’ll be able to see most of the signs. If you listen closely, you may hear a gurgling noise from your budgie’s belly. Those gurgling noises are the sounds of the gases produced by the fermented food and bacteria.
It may sound like how your stomach sounds when upset or something has made you gassy.
What Does Sour Crop Look Like?
It can be easy to tell if your budgie has sour crop. A crop that is swollen and feels squishy means your budgie likely has sour crop. If the crop is swollen and feels hard, it probably has an impacted crop.
What Causes Sour Crop in Budgies?
According to Avian Health, sour crop is seen in hand-reared chicks due to poor management.
Things like feeding food at the wrong temperature or consistency, not allowing the crop to empty before feeding, poor hygiene, incorrect incubation temperatures, humidity, and various diseases are all causes of sour crop in budgie chicks.
The causes of sour crop in adult budgies can include various crop infections, systemic or metabolic disease, heavy metal toxicity, or foreign body ingestion.
To get a clearer understanding of how some of these things can cause sour crop, here are some of the most common causes of sour crop in adult budgies:
Bacteria can come from contaminated food or water, dirty food or water dishes, old food, and other budgies. When bacteria enter the intestinal tract, it starts overproducing, weakening the immune system.
If your budgie is already sick from something, this can make the bacterial infection even worse because the immune system has already been weakened.
Yeast is produced in the body when the levels of natural bacteria are disrupted. This can happen in budgies when the food is left in the crop for too long because the acidity of the food and the environment changes and disrupts the digestive system’s natural balance.
A specific type of fungus called candida mostly commonly causes yeast infections. It starts to overgrow and evolves into large white plaques, which cause the crop to malfunction and stop working correctly. The food sits there and rots, producing a foul smell.
The candida can continue growing up into the mouth. If this is the case, you’ll be able to see white patches inside your budgie’s mouth.
If your budgie swallows something it shouldn’t, it can get stuck inside the crop and cause a blockage. Blockages can be caused by the following:
- Pieces of food that are too large
- Wood shavings
- Long pieces of grass
Your budgie could swallow just about anything that could lead to a blockage, especially if you let your budgie out of its cage to fly around your home. It can get ahold of many things that it might swallow.
To prevent sour crop impactions in the future, pay close attention to the things in your budgie’s cage and around your house that your budgie could get ahold of.
Can Sour Crop Spread?
Sour crop isn’t infectious, so it can’t spread from bird to bird.
If more than one of your budgies has sour crop at the same time, that means sour crop is likely a secondary infection that stems from something else.
Sour crop may spread within the budgie’s body. For instance, if a yeast infection causes sour crop, the yeast can spread from the crop and travel up into the esophagus and mouth of your budgie.
Will Sour Crop Go Away on Its Own?
Sour crop isn’t likely to go away on its own, but you can try massaging the crop gently to help get things functioning again. This will likely only work if you’ve identified sour crop in its early stages.
You can massage the budgie’s crop a few times a day if necessary. If it doesn’t seem to be helping, you may need to try other methods or take your budgie to the vet for assistance.
How Do You Treat Sour Crop in Budgies?
There are many ways to treat sour crop in budgies. Some things you can try on your own at home, and other things require a vet’s assistance.
Continuing to feed your budgie while it has sour crop, especially if it’s impacted, will only worsen things. Even if you continue offering food to your budgie, the chances are it’s not going to eat any of it until it starts feeling better.
Emptying Crop Manually
You can try to empty your budgie’s crop yourself using your hands. Hold your budgie with its head down and gently start massaging the bottom area of the crop.
If it works properly, your budgie will expel the food from its mouth. It’ll probably be gross and smell bad, but at least your budgie will feel much better.
Sometimes a vet must perform a crop wash to help with sour crop.
To do so, the vet will put a catheter into your budgie’s mouth and use a syringe to suck the contents out through the catheter. Then, the vet will perform a crop rinse using warm water.
If the cause of the sour crop is a bacterial infection, antibiotics can be given to try to clear the infection.
According to Veterinary Clinics: Exotic Animal Practice, when antibiotics such as Baytril or Tylan are given to budgies for bacterial infections related to sour crop, antifungal medications should be given also.
How Long Does It Take to Cure Sour Crop?
How long it takes for sour crop to clear up depends on the budgie and how fast and well they respond to whatever treatments they’re given. Generally, most budgies are back to normal after a few days.
Once the food is cleared from their crop, they feel much better. However, it may take them some time to get back up to eating at full capacity again.