How Do Cockatiels Get A Sour Crop? (Explained!)

A sour crop, also called crop stasis, is a digestive problem that cockatiels often have. The digestive system of cockatiels contains a food storage area called the crop, where food goes before it enters the stomach. But what is a sour crop? And how do cockatiels get a sour crop? Keep reading to find out more!

Adult cockatiels usually get a sour crop from infections, systemic or metabolic diseases, heavy metal toxicities, or foreign body ingestions. On the other hand, baby cockatiels can get a sour crop from being hand-fed improperly, raised in the wrong conditions, or from diseases.

How Do Cockatiels Get Sour Crop?

A sour crop can develop if the crop is slow to empty and food stays in it too long. Sometimes the crop completely stops working, mainly owing to a blockage known as an “affected crop.” Blockages typically occur when food in the crop becomes compressed.

A crop that is “impacted” is worse than a crop that is “sour.” It is like when a person has an intestinal blockage. An impacted crop usually requires immediate treatment by a vet.

What Is Sour Crop?

Hand-fed chicks commonly have issues with a sour crop and impaction. With this condition, your cockatiel’s food is not moving through the digestive tract as it is supposed to, and it creates a barrier that eventually stops anything from getting through.

If not treated immediately, a secondary bacterial, fungal, or yeast infection may occur, which will shut down the digestive system completely. This is a critical situation that requires emergency veterinarian attention.

However, the impaction of the crop is usually caused by formula separation, which is caused by the neonate formula being too cold or not mixed completely. Some sour crop cases are caused by chicks consuming materials such as bedding or other items that prevent the crop from draining properly.

A visit with an avian veterinarian is needed to confirm this.

Sour crop, also called crop stasis, is when the flow from the crop to the rest of the digestive tract slows down or stops. This is analogous to human intestinal blockage and can be just as harmful.

If not addressed promptly, this ailment will result in death.

Also, it can affect any sex, age, and breed but is mostly found in neonates (chicks) and juvenile cockatiels under six months old.

Signs of Crop Infections In Cockatiels

As we said, sour crop most commonly affects hand-fed baby cockatiels, but adult cockatiels are susceptible to it as they can develop from bacterial and viral infections or diseases.

A cockatiel’s crop must be emptied within 24 hours, or infection will begin.

However, signs of crop infections in cockatiels include:

  • Lack of appetite
  •  Ill appearance
  •  Full crop for more than 24 hours
  •  Regurgitation
  •  Fluffing up
  •  Dehydration
  •  Inactivity
  •  Irritability
  •  Depression
  •  Agitation
  •  Diarrhea

In the following, we will share some of the symptoms that happen more commonly than others:

Swollen and Hard Crop

A normally functioning crop will usually empty immediately after eating; however, it may take many hours. Each morning, the cockatiel’s crop should be empty and ready for the day’s food.

But, if the crop is still full after 24 hours, it’s likely that your cockatiel has developed a sour crop and could even have an impacted crop.

If your cockatiel’s crop is swollen and squishy, this usually indicates the start of a sour crop. When a crop is impacted, it may feel hard and swollen.

Regurgitation and Vomiting

Cockatiels regurgitate their foodOpens in a new tab. often for a variety of reasons. However, when your cockatiel regurgitates more frequently, it could signify that something is wrong. The regurgitated material could be a clear liquid or undigested food.

Regurgitation is an act that cockatiels and other types of birds purposely do and is different from vomiting.

Your cockatiel may get stressed out if it can’t stop throwing up, especially if it’s throwing up partially digested food. If your cockatiel starts vomiting, you should take it to the vet immediately.

Sour Smell

Crop stasis got the name “sour crop” because it is caused by a bacterial or yeast infection in the crop.

When food is left in the crop for an extended period, it begins to ferment or rot. The infection and the food going bad together cause a sour smell that comes out of the mouth.

Decreased Appetite

If your cockatiel’s crop remains full, it won’t want to eat because it already feels full and possibly uncomfortable. Your cockatiel may not eat until the food is emptied from the crop.

Things like lacerations or burns can sometimes cause a sour crop, and if this is the case with your cockatiel, it may hurt too much to eat. It’s never a good thing when cockatiels won’t eat, and not eating can lead to health issues, including death.

If your cockatiel isn’t eating at all or very little, it may be a good idea to seek vet care and treatment as soon as possible.

Abnormal Droppings

When cockatiels have a sour crop, they may have undigested food in their droppings, diarrheaOpens in a new tab., or foul-smelling poop.

Your cockatiel may also poop less than normal. If you notice these abnormal droppings, especially if they are combined with other signs of a sour crop, they should be cause for concern.


When they have a sour crop, it’s easy for cockatiels to lose water, especially if they throw up, vomit, or have diarrhea. Try getting your cockatiel to drink as much water as possible.

Lack of Energy

Your cockatiel may suddenly be less active than usual due to insufficient food intake.

If your cockatiel’s crop is full, it won’t eat more food. If the crop isn’t emptying into the stomach or emptying extremely slowly, your cockatiel isn’t getting enough energy reserves to keep it going

What Does Sour Crop Sound Like?

If your cockatiel has a sour crop, you will be able to see most of the signs. If you listen closely, you may hear a gurgling noise from your cockatiel’s belly. The gas that comes out of the bacteria and fermented food makes these gurgling sounds.

It may sound like how your stomach sounds when upset or when something has made you gassy.

What Does Sour Crop Look Like?

It can be easy to tell if your cockatiel has a sour crop. A crop that is swollen and feels squishy means your cockatiel likely has a sour crop. If the crop is bloated and feels tough, it likely has a crop impact.

What Causes Sour Crop In Cockatiels?

According to Avian Health, a sour crop is seen in hand-reared chicks due to poor management.

The sour crop in cockatiel chicks can be caused by feeding them food at the wrong temperature or consistency, not letting the crop empty before feeding them, not keeping them clean enough, giving them food at the wrong incubation temperature, humidity, or because they have a lot of infections.

The causes of a sour crop in an adult cockatiel can include various crop infections, systemic or metabolic disease, foreign body ingestion, or heavy metal toxicity.

To get a clearer understanding of how some of these things can cause a sour crop, here are some of the most common causes of a sour crop in adult cockatiels:

Yeast Infection

Yeast is created in the body when natural bacteria levels are disturbed. This can happen in cockatiels when the food is left in the crop for too long because the acidity of the food and the environment change and disrupt the digestive system’s natural balance.

Candida, a type of fungus, is the most prevalent cause of yeast infections. It starts to grow too much and turns into big white spots, which makes the crop stop working right and stop growing. The food lies there and rots, emitting an offensive odor.

The candida might continue to grow within the mouth. If this is the case, you will be able to see white patches inside your cockatiel’s mouth

Bacterial Infection

Bacteria can come from contaminated food or water, dirty food or water dishes, old food, etc. When bacteria get into the digestive tract, more immune cells are made, which weakens the immune system.

If your cockatiel is already sick from something, this can make the bacterial infection even worse because the immune system has already been weakened.


If your cockatiel swallows something it shouldn’t, it can get stuck inside the crop and cause a blockage. Blockages can be caused by the following:

  • Toys
  •  String
  •  Pieces of food that are too large
  •  Coins
  •  Wood shavings
  •  Long Pieces of grass

Your cockatiel could swallow just about anything that could lead to a blockage, especially if you let your cockatiel out of its cage to fly around your home. It can grasp numerous objects that it may swallow.

To prevent sour crop impacts in the future, pay close attention to the things in your cockatiel’s cage and around your house that your cockatiel could get ahold of.

Will Sour Crop Go Away On Its Own?

A 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 a sour crop in its early stages.

You can massage the cockatiel’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 cockatiel to the vet for assistance.

Can Sour Crop Spread?

Because the sour crop is not contagious, it cannot spread from bird to bird.

However, if more than one of your cockatiels has a sour crop at the same time, that means the sour crop is likely a secondary infection that stems from something else.

The sour crop may spread within the cockatiel’s body. For instance, if a yeast infection causes a sour crop, the yeast can spread from the crop and travel up into the esophagus and mouth of your cockatiel.

How To Treat Sour Crop In Cockatiels?

There are many ways to treat a sour crop in cockatiels. Some things can be done at home, while others need a veterinarian’s help.

So here are some home sour crop treatments for cockatiels

Stop Feedings

Continuing to feed your cockatiel while it has a sour crop, especially if it’s impacted, will only worsen things. Even if you continue offering food to your cockatiel, the chances are it’s not going to eat any of it until it starts feeling better.

Emptying Crop Manually

You can try emptying your cockatiel’s crop with your hands. Hold your cockatiel with its head down and gently start massaging the bottom area of the crop.

If it works properly, your cockatiel will expel the food from its mouth. It will probably be gross and smell bad, but at least your cockatiel will feel much better.

Crop Wash

Sometimes a vet must perform a crop wash to help with a sour crop.

To do so, the vet will put a catheter into your cockatiel’s mouth and use a syringe to suck the contents out through the catheter. The veterinarian will then perform a crop rinse with warm water.


If a bacterial infection is to blame for the sour crop, antibiotics could be used to try to get rid of the infection.

According to Veterinary Clinics: Exotic Animal PracticeOpens in a new tab., when antibiotics such as Baytril or Tylan are given to cockatiels for bacterial infections related to a sour crop, antifungal medications should be given also.

What Is The Curing Time For A Sour Crop?

How long a cockatiel’s sour crop lasts depends on the bird and how quickly and effectively it reacts to treatment. Generally, most cockatiels are back to normal after a few days.

After the food has been removed from their crop, they will feel significantly better. However, it may take some time for them to resume eating at full capacity.

Cockatiel Enthusiast

My name is Bojan. I have been around Cockatiels for the past 7 years. I love writing about Cockatiels and helping people understand how these beautiful birds live, what they like, and how to provide them the best possible care.

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