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how I almost killed my turkey

Saturday - Friends come over to meet our new turkeys. They bring healthy greens (kale, chards, collards, fennel...) as welcome gifts, and Sophie and Lucie enjoy them thoroughly. They actually devour every leaf that is offered, sometimes swallowing it whole without bothering about the stem. It’s a great fun day.


Sunday - Lucie sprints to her breakfast while Sophie walks to it. Weird. Both start eating, so I don’t worry further and go get my own breakfast. When I come back, Sophie is hunched and quiet. She looks like she is going to vomit. Her neck is swollen and her crop gigantic. Crop impaction! We need to get things moving in there! I quickly consult with my friend at Happy Hen who confirms the diagnostic. I give her some olive oil, papaya enzyme, lots of water, and start massaging her crop. She stands next to me on a straw bale while I massage her. Her eyes are closed. I can hear her stomach gurgling and smell her burps. All good signs. After a couple of hours, the food stuck in her neck goes down. She immediately feels better. She opens her eyes, smiles, and thanks me - well she looks at me and sits closer to me :) I continue massaging her on and off for hours that day, things are moving slowly out of her crop. At the end of the day, Sophie’s crop has reduced by half. Hopefully, the rest would go down during the night


Monday - At sunrise, I rush to check on Sophie. Her crop is not empty. There is still a clump in it. I give her pain meds as she is obviously not feeling well. I keep massaging her crop, but the clump is hard and I can’t get it to crumble or move. I call a couple of vets to get their opinions on what to do next, and decide to go see a local avian specialist. But first, we need a crate to transport Sophie. The cat carriers we use for chickens are too small, and I can’t carry the dog crate around with a 20-pound turkey in it. I am really stressed out and feeling extremely guilty.


Tuesday - The vet finds that Sophie has a 4” stick in her crop! A thick kale stem maybe? Anyway, that’s never going to go down by itself, so we talk about surgery. She explains how she would do it without general anesthesia. I wince. She says that it’s too risky on a turkey. Back home, I read everything I can on crop surgery and anesthesia on turkeys, and I get quite a mixed bag of information (by the way DO NOT attempt this procedure yourself on your kitchen table like many YouTube videos are showing. That’s insane!). I ask the opinion of all the animal caregivers I know, and everyone is pretty much on the same page: yes anesthesia is risky, but don’t cut open a crop without one. Wanting the best for Sophie, we decide to go to the Medical Center For Birds in Oakley the next day.


Wednesday - After a restless night, we bring breakfast to the girls. Sophie’s crop is empty! Totally empty! No clump, no stick, nothing! It’s a miracle! Incredulous, we check her many times. How did that 4” long stick go away? Can it get stuck somewhere down her digestive track, causing more damage? We keep a close eye one her throughout the day.


Thursday (today) - I am happy to report that Sophie’s crop is back to normal, and that she is doing very well. Like if nothing happened. Whew!

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