Thursday, September 25, 2014

Backyard chickens may be taking up organochlorines from your soil.

Every now and then someone pipes up to remind or inform other back yard chicken keepers that they may be poisoning their family by letting the chickens free-range in their gardens. This is due to the persistant nature of a lot of the organochlorine type pesticides that were widely sprayed in the seventies and eighties to try and control Argentine ants and termites around people's properties. Often whole suburbs were sprayed, usually along fence lines and back alleys and around the stumps and foundations of houses. If you live in an area that was previously market garden you may be at risk, too. These older established urban areas have more of a chemical load in the soil than the newer suburbs on recently cleared Banksia woodland and sandplain areas.

These chemicals are in a group called Persistant Organic Pollutants. They break down very very slowly and accumulate in the food chain; as each larger animal eats their prey they gather higher and higher amounts of the toxin in their fatty tissues.  If you have chickens and they are scratching the soil and eating insects from an area that is still toxic and then you eat those eggs, there may be some of these poisons in your body. There are a number of problems caused by these toxins, from allergies and neonatal developmental changes to nervous system damage, cancer and even death.

You can reduce the risk of ingestion through eggs by siting the chicken run away from fence lines and house foundations and by installing a cement floor, layers of thick plastic or deep enough fresh soil to prevent the chickens getting to the deeper layers.

You can get your soil tested at various analytical soil labs around the city.
Chemcentre WA is the most commonly recommended.

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