Urban Chickens & Lead

Originally Published in 2009
on Tamara’s original advocacy site

Why didn’t the chicken cross the road?

Because it was lead poisoned and was confused.
Because it was lead poisoned and had a staggered gait.
Because it was lead poisoned and had ankle drag.
Because it was lead poisoned and had muscle and joint pain.
Because it was lead poisoned and was too heavy.
Because it was lead poisoned and forgot what it was doing.

Contributed by:
Jonathan Klane, M.S.Ed., CIH, CHMM, CET
Klane’s Education Information Training Hub (KEITH)
Fairfield, Maine

“Take a step in the right direction”

This is seemingly a trivial subject – as one might imagine urban (back yard) chickens are probably a small contributor to childhood lead poisoning. However I chose to put this page together for a few reasons:

  • In October 2008 there was a discussion on Lead-net (an online network of lead poisoning prevention advocates, professionals and policy makers) about urban chickens and the potential toxicity.
  • In early 2009 there was an article about an African town where children were violently ill and dying and it turned out to be lead poisoning – one of the indicators of the problem was when the town’s chickens started dying en masse.
  • And then, finally, on February 12, 2009 The Portland Tribune Sustainable Life Section had a fairly upbeat article about the wonderful opportunity raising urban chickens represents in terms of a sustainable food choice and a sustainable pet choice.

I wanted to tie these conversations together so that urban chicken farmers (and those considering the activity) don’t blindly consider the pros without understanding the cons, particularly the potential poisoning of their children. I also chose to write this piece/ assemble these facts, because the Tribune article stated that Portland, Oregon has more urban chickens per capita than any other city in America—so it seemed like a good time to address this issue.



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