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Protect Your Flock: the Dangers Of Lead Poisoning

By Tom Seest

Are Your Backyard Chickens At Risk From Lead?

At BackyardChickenNews, we help people who want to raise backyard chickens by collating information and news blended with our own personal experiences.

If you raise backyard chickens, you might be concerned about the effects of lead exposure. Lead can contaminate the soil, and it can harm the birds. But there are simple steps you can take to help minimize the exposure. Getting samples from the soil can help you identify where the lead is coming from.

Are Your Backyard Chickens At Risk From Lead?

Are Your Backyard Chickens At Risk From Lead?

Is Your Flock at Risk? Detecting Lead Poisoning in Backyard Chickens

Lead poisoning can be a serious problem for backyard chickens. The symptoms are varied and include loss of appetite, anemia, and a decrease in egg production. In the acute stage, a chicken’s blood lead level may exceed 10 mg/dL, and its liver/kidney tissues may also show metallic deposits. As the disease progresses, the chicken may also exhibit decreased gastrointestinal motility and show signs of greenish diarrhea.
There are several causes of lead toxicity in backyard chickens, including lead-based paint and soil contamination. However, lead toxicity in chickens can be particularly common in older homes, especially weatherboard-clad homes. As a result, owners of such chickens should be especially vigilant and avoid eating their eggs until they have been thoroughly tested and shown to be safe for human consumption.
The presence of lead in backyard chickens’ eggs has been found to be a health risk for children. Studies have shown that exposure to high levels of lead can lead to behavioral problems and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. It can also lead to decreased brain volume and IQ deficits.
Lead contamination in soil occurs from leaded gasoline, paints, and industrial effluents. In addition, exposure to lead can occur when chickens eat plants that were grown in lead-contaminated soil or feed on the tissues of lead-exposed animals. As a result, it is important to ensure your chickens are not feeding on dirt that is contaminated with lead.
Lead contamination in backyard chickens has become widespread, particularly in the northeastern United States. The contamination was a result of lead-based paint and gasoline from previous generations. Fortunately, the researchers’ findings have led to several new guidelines for the prevention of lead poisoning in chickens.
Symptoms of lead poisoning in backyard hens include elevated blood levels. Eggs produced by backyard hens may contain up to 40 times the amount of lead as that of commercially produced hens. The researchers recommend that backyard chicken owners test their soil for lead concentrations to ensure they don’t expose their flocks to lead.
If your chickens display these signs, you should get them checked by a veterinarian. Lead is a neurotoxin that remains in the chicken’s digestive tract and can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Lead also reduces a bird’s ability to absorb calcium. Lead may even be found in its egg yolk. In most cases, lead poisoning will cause the chicken to die without obvious symptoms. In this case, it is best to send the chicken to a veterinarian for a necropsy.
Lead poisoning in backyard chickens can be avoided by keeping the chickens in grassy areas or out of reach of contaminated soil. You should also consider giving your chickens a calcium supplement, which can reduce the amount of lead in their eggs.

Is Your Flock at Risk? Detecting Lead Poisoning in Backyard Chickens

Is Your Flock at Risk? Detecting Lead Poisoning in Backyard Chickens

Is Your Backyard Chicken Coop Harming Your Soil?

Keeping backyard chickens is a popular hobby, but if you’re concerned about environmental lead contamination, there are some simple steps you can take to protect your flock. For starters, test your soil for lead, and make sure your hens eat clean food.
Researchers tested lead concentrations in chicken eggs and soil. They found that backyard chicken eggs contained up to 40 times more lead than commercial products, and nearly half exceeded the 100ug/kg limit for safe human consumption. While this result may be alarming, it does show that backyard chickens aren’t the only source of environmental lead contamination.
Public health agencies and garden clubs have done a great deal to educate people about lead hazards, especially in raised planting beds and soil. Lead-based paint was banned from new construction in 1978, but exposure to it is still a risk. In fact, lead is present in all the samples tested, including chicken feed and paint chips. It is not known what the health effects of prolonged exposure to lead will be.
There are several sources of soil lead contamination, including lead-based paint, leaded gasoline, and industrial effluents. Lead can enter the soil from the air via air pollution particles that land on the soil. This is why it’s crucial to thoroughly wash vegetables and fruits before eating them. Even if you’re not consuming any eggs, don’t even think about growing them in lead-contaminated soil. Instead, grow them in containers and keep them safe.
In the northeastern U.S., lead contamination is widespread due to previous generations’ use of leaded gasoline and lead-based paint. McGowan kept four backyard chickens, and one of them suddenly began experiencing diarrhea. As a result, he began to worry about the lead levels in the eggs and soil.
While many other animal species can be exposed to lead, backyard chickens can be a good sentinel for lead exposure. In the study, researchers collected samples of soil in backyard chicken yards and coops. They also sampled the chickens’ drinking water, feed, and feces. The researchers also interviewed a number of chicken owners, including Allison Coates, Irene Galan Lecona, and Ryan Weaver.
The authors of the study concluded that there is a correlation between the soil Pb concentration and the Pb content of the eggs. In addition, this association was even stronger among homes that were older and prone to elevated Pb values. These elevated levels of Pb in the soil are also linked to a higher concentration of Pb in chicken eggs. Luckily, there are some preventive measures that chicken owners can take to minimize the risk of contamination.

Is Your Backyard Chicken Coop Harming Your Soil?

Is Your Backyard Chicken Coop Harming Your Soil?

Are Your Backyard Chickens Safe from Lead Poisoning?

The dangers of lead exposure to backyard chickens are very real, but fortunately, there are some easy steps homeowners can take to limit their flock’s exposure to lead. The first step is to ensure that the chicken coop is elevated to prevent contamination from the ground below. Another way to limit exposure is to ensure that chickens are not fed any leftover eggshells.
Although backyard chicken owners often consider the dangers of lead to be low, they should take steps to reduce their risk of exposure. For instance, the EPA offers information about testing and exposure assessment for lead, so backyard chicken owners can use that information to help prevent lead exposure to their flock. Providing information on how to test for lead in the soil and the eggs is a great first step in preventing exposure.
Backyard chickens are common in both urban and rural environments. Considering the fact that backyard chickens do not undergo routine diagnostic testing, they are a potential source of exposure to lead. Considering the widespread use of backyard chickens, it is important to educate consumers about the problem and encourage them to monitor the flock for lead exposure.
As part of a full diagnostic work-up for backyard chickens, a heavy metal screen should be conducted. This will ensure that your flock is not a source of lead for consumers. However, it is important to understand that lead poisoning is not always a primary cause of death or illness in humans. Fortunately, the majority of backyard chicken owners have never experienced a lead exposure involving their flock.
Although the incidence of lead exposure has decreased in the USA, there are still emerging sources of lead in the environment. Among the most common sources of exposure to lead are gasoline, paint, and consumer products. As an urban and suburban environment grows, the number of backyard chicken owners has increased, and so have the risk factors of lead exposure. While these sources are not the sole source of lead exposure, consumers should be aware of them.
Several studies have shown that backyard chickens and cattle can be sources of lead exposure. Lead exposure can be dangerous for children and pregnant women. The public health risk from lead exposure is underreported, but precautionary measures are still necessary. The best way to minimize this risk is to ensure that all poultry and cattle are properly monitored and tested for lead before they are released into the environment.

Are Your Backyard Chickens Safe from Lead Poisoning?

Are Your Backyard Chickens Safe from Lead Poisoning?

Be sure to read our other related stories at BackyardChickenNews to learn more about raising chickens in your backyard.


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