Lead can contaminate eggs, leading to lead poisoning in those who eat the eggs. The highest levels of lead are usually found in the yolk and shell. Eating soil contaminated with lead is the most common way chickens are exposed to lead. Things that can contaminate the soil include:
Lead-based paint chips
Exhaust fumes from leaded automotive fuels
Reducing your risk
Make sure that your chicken coop is not near a dwelling or area with peeling or chipping paint, or built with old wood that has peeling or chipping paint.
Have the soil in and around your chicken coop tested for lead.
If your soil has high lead levels, raise the coop off the ground.
If you find out your eggs contain lead, do not feed the egg shells back to the chickens or add them to a compost pile.
Test for Lead
State Lab of Hygiene can test soil and egg yolks for lead. Call (800) 442-4618.
Prevent Rat Infestations
Rats are attracted to chicken coops as a source of food. If they have access to your coop, infestations can occur.
Rat-proof Your Chicken Coop
Eliminate their food source:
Collect eggs frequently
Store chicken feed in a metal bin with a tight fitting lid
Don't leave chicken feed and water out at night.
If building a new coop, build it at least one foot off the ground, or make the floor out of cement.
If you have an existing coop with a dirt floor, cover it with hardware cloth that you staple a few inches up the wall.