The Daily Mail published an article on 10 August 2022 on the subject of backyard soil contamination.
It is a real possibility and worthwhile exploring for both your pets' and your health.
IS EVERY BACKYARD CONTAMINATED?
No, not every location is contaminated but we need to be aware of the history of the location before making that decision.
WHAT HOMES ARE MOST LIKELY TO HAVE CONTAMINATED SOIL?
There are a few alarm bells to be aware of:
1. Was it previously an industrial worksite/zone? Any close by industries such as car manufacturing.
2. Was it a dump filled in?
3. Is it close to a railway line?
4. Is there lead or asbestos used in the construction of home?
5. Is it close to a major highway/main road with heavy use?
6. Is bore water being used for irrigation?
I have come across a number of places around Adelaide as a pet sitter where my clients have definitely had an issue with soil contaminates and had to give up keeping chickens at their address. Many moved rather than give up "the girls".
HOW DO CHICKENS GET POISONED FROM THE SOIL?
Chickens are forages, they naturally scratch and dust bathe. Over time, soil disturbances exposes the hens to any toxins lurking in the yard. They eat bugs that are dwelling in the soil who have also been exposed to the contaminates.
This is not only a danger to poultry, but also to dogs, cats, rabbits, and guinea pigs. All of them will spend time in creating some soil disturbance and can pick it up through foot pad exposure and through grazing.
BUT THERE IS ONE MORE ASPECT you need to be aware of and that is growing edible plants for you and your family. That same soil can affect your health. If you do have a soil contamination issue, you will not be able to grow any edible fruit or vegetable directly in your soil. Opt for container/raised bed gardening as a solution.
Ultimately, if you are eating your chickens' eggs or meat, you will experience secondary exposure to soil contaminates. Egg fertility might also be affected for hatching chicks.
CAN THE SOIL BE FIXED?
If you can excavate the top soil to a very large extent and bring in clean fill, that may work. But that can be the most expensive solution. It is easier to move than to excavate to be honest. Your health and the health of your pets is a priority.
BUT I WANT TO KEEP MY POULTRY AT MY ADDRESS, WHAT CAN I DO?
The best solution is to provide a solid concrete floor to the entire coop and run area to keep them off of the soil. Provide dust bathing areas with a mix a clean fill such as loamy soil with some sand or wood ash. Pinterest has many great ideas on creating dust bathing areas.
HOW DO WE GET THE SOIL TESTED?
Yes it can be done and it is not as expensive as you might think.
At the time of publication of this article:
360 DUST ANALYSIS can test your garden soil or even the dust inside your house for around $20.
Its all about citizen science, analysing Australian backyards through Macquarie University.
Results take about 3-5 weeks to process.
Jump straight to submit here.
Another very handy website to use is Map My Environment where you can see soil sample results from other home owners in your area.