What do I do if my chickens consumed paint with lead in it?
I live in Maine and have 3 hens laying eggs. Last fall our chickens escaped their pen and we found them pecking up and eating paint that had flecked off our 1860’s house. Given the age of the house, it’s likely this paint has lead in it and we stopped eating the eggs once we realized there could be lead contamination in the eggs. About six months have passed and I wonder if it is now possible to once again eat our chickens’ eggs. Is there a test available to test for lead in chickens?
There was a study done of New York City chickens that had continuous access to lead-contaminated soils.
“All but one of the eggs in our study had less than 100 μg/kg lead, suggesting that, in general, they contained lead at concentrations that were not higher than those in foods considered acceptable for commercial distribution.” They did have suggestions for reducing the exposure of chickens to soils contaminated with lead. Based on our findings and our review of the literature, we developed the following recommendations to help NYC chicken keepers reduce lead concentrations in eggs:
Add clean soil, mulch, or other clean cover material to existing chicken runs to help reduce chickens’ contact with and ingestion of contaminated soil. Use clean soil when constructing new chicken runs. Inspect the clean cover material regularly, and add or maintain material as needed to help keep chickens from coming in contact with underlying soil that may have higher concentrations of lead.
1. Provide chickens’ regular feed in feeders, and avoid scattering feed, including scratch grains and food scraps, on bare ground in areas where the soil has higher concentrations of lead, or where lead concentrations are not well characterized.
2. Evaluate gardens for potential sources of lead. Do not allow chickens to forage near these sources. For example, keep chickens away from structures painted with lead-based paint and out of areas where the soil has higher concentrations of lead.
3. Avoid feeding chickens unwashed garden scraps from areas where the soil has higher concentrations of lead.
4. Consider providing a calcium supplement, which may help to reduce the amount of lead that gets into chickens’ eggs.
Since your chickens only had one exposure to the soil that might be contaminated with lead, I don’t think there is a problem eating eggs from these chickens. You can test the soils in the area you suspect is contaminated with lead with our garden soil test. They do a lead screen. Here is a link to order a soil test kit.