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Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Gabriel, Jul 14, 2008.
Does anyone know if lead in the soil (in the run) will harm chickens?
Depends upon how much lead, the form/source of the lead (what is it, where did it come from), how much the chickens ingest, etc. Give as much information as you can and I'm sure someone will answer you.
Well, we will get it actually tested soon, but how much is too much?
The damaging dose would be different for chickens than for people, but there is no acceptable level of lead for humans. It is not good. Lead can be concentrated in the food chain, too. I don't know if it will turn up in your chickens' eggs or meat, but some plants take up lead, others don't.
Is the lead that's in your run from old paint, old pipes, an old waste disposal site, other source? Why is it there?
Try this link: http://jvdi.org/cgi/reprint/15/5/418.pdf
This is my first post on the Forum. I actually registered to ask this very question.
I recently got my soil test back and found out we have elevated lead levels (284ppm). This is not particularly uncommon in our city, unfortunately. Our local agriculture support org is very supportive and has lots of information for gardening, but doesn't know about the effects on chickens or other livestock.
I contacted my local state university extension office and the only information they could find was the aforementioned article. While somewhat informative, the research was only conducted on a small flock of layers who had ingested lead-based paint chips. The chips have a much higher concentration of lead than soil, but the exposure period was much shorter, hence the conclusions of this research are not that helpful.
My small flock is confined to a large pen with exposed soil about 50% of the time and ranges in a large grassy yard for the remainder. Of course, when in their pen they take lots of dust baths and have a lot more direct contact with possibly contaminated soil. Does anyone have any other information on potential health risks to my girls, or (more importantly) on lead-absorption rates in eggs and meat? Any information would be appreciated.
I suggest that a load of sand placed over the soil would help.
I don't know if the lead would leach up into the sand.... I don't think so.
what do you all think?
I just did a little searching. Safe levels of lead in garden soils are considered 100ppm to 400ppm depending on the state you live in. It looks like the federal guidelines say 300 ppm. The articles I looked at implied that most of the danger was due to soil remaining on vegtables, not lead in the plants due to plant uptake. So, what does this mean for chickens you intend to use for food. Based on this and the other article, my GUESS is that you might want to consider some sort of fill for your chicken yard. It looks like lead accumulates in poultry, just like many other animals and that it gets into eggs. The chickens in the study were from a barn with paint chips at 38% lead....or 380,000 ppm, so it is difficult to know how much they were injesting. The ones they fed in the study were fed a diet that was pretty heavily laced with lead.
If you do fill, I would suggest a depth of at least 6-8 inches. My hens can dig some pretty deep holes from dust bathing, so that is something to consider.
I fear that really relevant studies may never have been done. Personally I'd err on the side of caution. I'd probably remove the upper several inches of soil, till up the lower soil well, mix in a sack or two of Quickrete (am't depending on size of area) and rake to mix well, then dampen with hose, grade it AWAY from the house or coop, and leave it to harden. Then top with 6+" of sand or sand/gravel mix and call it good.
That way, even if they do dig holes in the sand they are not going to be mixing in any of the contaminated soil from below (cuz it is set up fairly hard with the concrete mix).
JMHO, good luck,
My husband is an environmental professional He recommends #1 bringing in a load of clean soil or sand to top their run a good 6 inches to limit their exposure to the lead containing soil.
#2 Lead is mainly deposited in bone/calcium so he would NOT recycle their egg shells back to the hens as a calcium source.
Other than that he said you'd probably be fine. If you are really worried you could send in samples from their eggs to a lab for testing.
One thing I'd recommend is upping their vitamin intake, especially their mineral intake. When my husband is at risk for exposure at a jobsite he takes a calcium/magnesium/ zinc supplement so all the places in his body the lead wants to bind to are already filled with the extra minerals. Layer mix is heavy with calcium and most supplement with more calcium so that would cover most of your mineral needs.
I'd say go for the hens!
Thanks to all for your responses- they've been helpful. We'll probably try some means of covering/removing the existing soil. On another plot we're experimenting with phytoremediation (growing sunflowers) and have added a large amount of organic material. If I get around to lab tests on their eggs, I'll be sure to post the results.