Having chickens where there is potentially lead paint in the soil?

Amanda Witman
By Amanda Witman on Mon, Dec 10, 2012 - 2:44pm

Obviously I don't want my eggs to be full of lead.  I live in a "city" area (lot size 0.09 acres) and there is a 6' margin of land on the west and north sides of my house that I think would be pretty ideal for having a chicken run...however, I know this house (1920s) had lead paint on its exterior in the past (just like probably every house in our neighborhood and many in the country, too.)

I assume I should get a soil test done, but then what?  Are there established safe levels for chickens, meat consumers, egg consumers?  Has anyone gone through this sort of process, or is there evidence that chickens pecking at this sort of soil don't uptake the lead (wouldn't that be ideal!)?

I intend to build a permanent coop, but I do not want to even begin the work of designing it until I'm sure the soil is safe.  Or perhaps I need to do something creative to keep the chooks from nibbling at the lead-paint-soil, but how would one go about doing that? 

Budget is small, and removing some inches of dirt and then replacing it with new dirt from somewhere else seems kind of extreme. I'm hoping for a more budget-friendly option.

There are dogs in my neighborhood, so free-ranging/tractoring isn't an option and they need a full-time permanent coop.  Also, I realize I'm going to have to get a variance approved to even be allowed to have chickens here in town, but that is a separate issue and appears to be the easier one to solve.

I would be grateful for any thoughts on this.  Thanks.

1 Comment

Woodman's picture
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 26 2008
Posts: 1028
Chickens and lead exposure

Below evaluation is just based on quick internet research to get us in the ballpark.  I'd suggest getting a soil sample tested for lead for your peace of mind, and go from there depending on the results.  If it is high I don;t think it would be hard to replace the top few inches of soil with some clean sand or fill.



Children should not consume more than 15 micrograms of lead per day to stay under 10 ug per dL  in  blood.   Newer standard is 5 ug/dL for young children.  So say 7 ug/day is the max a child should consume.



This research article found elevated levels of lead in the blood of chickens that were exposed to lead and found higher levels of lead in yolks of eggs they laid:



Say a large egg weighs about 60 grams and the yolk is one third of that or 20 grams.

The highest level of lead found in the above study was about 400 ppb in yolk. 

So 0.4 ppm lead x 20 grams yolks  = 8 micrograms of lead in a yolk. 

So there is a potential for levels of lead that are a concern in eggs when chickens  are exposed to lead especially for children.


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