Railroad ties...safe?

Advertisement Purina Flock Layer


11 Years
Mar 13, 2008
We are starting work on a new chicken coop and a question popped up. Is it safe to use railroad ties? Since the ties are soaked in creosote is it toxic to the birds? The ones we are using are about 10-12 years old so I would think that would make them old enough to not be a concern but I'm just checking.
hmmm....thats a good question, I never thought of it as being a problem. We have railroad ties all over the property and when the chickens free-range they have access to TONS of them. I havent noticed a problem. Let me know what you find out though!!
I can say for a fact, as someone that has professionally worked with creosote timbers and pilings for many years, creosote is definitely very toxic. In fact, it is listed as hazardous waste when disposing of it. I have gotten creosote burns myself from getting creosote on me. The resulting rash was a red welt raised up from the skin and resembling a poison ivy or oak reaction.

The last time that I got a bad creosote burn (with sun poisoning) like that I ended up with a fever that evening that was 105 degrees AFTER it felt like it broke and I was regaining my senses. I was out to dinner with my wife and friends when it started hitting me badly. By the time we got outside and got ready to leave I was slurring my speech badly and supposedly started speaking nonsense on the ride home.

That being said, creosote usually only affects humans when the tar is rubbed into the skin, usually in the summer when the temperature is high and the tarry creosote begins to melt and soak out of the timbers. Humans rarely have problems with it because they usually know better than to mess with a creosote timber when the tar is melting out of it. (That is, unless it is your job to mess with it then. I had been removing 50 year old rotten dock pilings from the water when I got sick as described above.)

Chickens, on the other hand, are not as smart as humans. Not only may they walk over the timbers in the summer when the creosote is melting out without realizing it at first (thus injuring their feet and opening themselves up to a plethora of other infections and diseases), but they also may peck at the timbers, even in the winter, especially if parts of the timber are starting to rot and hold ants or other bugs. Then, they ingest the poisonous creosote along with the poisoned bugs.

In short, chickens are not the intellient creatures that people are, and they are far more susceptible from creosote poisoning than us, unless, of course, we eat the meat and eggs of poisoned birds.

Ahhhh, the wonders of modern science, eh? Any wonder why we have so much cancer in the world today?

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