Chook own­ers should be ‘lead aware’

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - TOM CARNEGIE

Back­yard chicken own­ers in Auck­land need to be aware of lead-con­tam­i­nated soil pos­si­bly lead­ing to lead-con­tam­i­nated chick­ens, a vet says.

San­dring­ham res­i­dent John Fowler bought two chick­ens to keep in his back­yard just over six months ago.

He says the hens were seem­ingly healthy but a chance en­counter with a vet, Liz Cowie, prompted him to get them tested for lead.

‘‘It was re­ally ran­dom, we just bought a chook feeder off Trade Me and the lady that was sell­ing it to us said she was a vet study­ing lead tox­i­c­ity and we should have them tested.’’

The test re­sults showed the hens had lead lev­els so high they were deemed un­fit for con­sump­tion un­der western food stan­dards.

Fowler says Cowie rec­om­mended they should stop eat­ing the chick­ens’ eggs im­me­di­ately and they have now sent egg sam­ples off for fur­ther test­ing.

Cowie, who works at St Lukes Pet Doc­tor, says it has been eye­open­ing the amount of sick chick­ens brought into the clinic which test pos­i­tive for lead.

While lead does pass from the chicken into the egg, Cowie says there is lim­ited re­search as to how much this is ex­actly.

In one spe­cific case at St Lukes Pet Doc­tors the lead level in the egg was around one-third of that de­tected in the blood­stream of the hen.

Cowie is cur­rently do­ing her PhD study in the preva­lence of el­e­vated lead lev­els in back­yard chick­ens in Auck­land.

‘‘It is too early to com­ment on the find­ings of the study but we hope that the re­sults will let us know how wide­spread the is­sues is,’’ she says.

Grey Lynn res­i­dent Rita Rosen­berg-Smith’s ex bat­tery hens have also tested pos­i­tive for high lev­els of lead tox­i­c­ity at the St Lukes clinic.

She says she wasn’t shocked by the re­sults as one side of their villa was flak­ing paint, which has now been com­pletely stripped and re­painted.

Cowie says lead-based paint from older houses is be­lieved to be one of the main sources caus­ing lead tox­i­c­ity in chick­ens.

In the past Cowie has had ur­ban chick­ens her­self. She says while they are fan­tas­tic, pets own­ers should be ‘‘lead aware’’. Call your lo­cal vet for more in­for­ma­tion.

TOM CARNEGIE / FAIR­FAX NZ

A San­dring­ham res­i­dent says he was ‘gut­ted’ to find out his chick­ens tested pos­i­tive for high lev­els of lead.

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