Chickens in your backyard means organic eggs right? Wrong. Follow this advice to remove the question mark from your chickens eggs.
A major reason people decide to have their own chickens is the perception that the chickens eggs will be organic. However in order to trust your chickens eggs are organic you would need to consider the following:
Have the soil in your chicken coop tested for traces of pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides.
What is in the soil that your chickens are pecking around in? What was past use of the land on which your house is built? What was sprayed on your land before the house was built?
Many toxic compounds are active for decades. What was that old gardener mixing up in his shed 40 years ago? Even if the shed was knocked down 20 years ago, spilt pesticides will still reside in the soil. You don’t know the full story behind your backyard and it’s now the site of your chicken coop.
Organochlorines (pesticides) increase in strength the further it moves up the food chain. Its presence might be only be a trace in the soil but worms and bugs digest the soil and the substances accumulate. Chickens eat worms and soil and it becomes even more concentrated. In bad enough situations chickens can lay eggs which are highly contaminated and toxic.
Who can do the test?
There are many scientific laboratories around Australia that will test soil and chicken eggs. The resulting report will tell you exactly what lies beneath the surface of your soil. Its worth mentioning that the laboratories can’t advise you on what levels are safe, they can only tell you what levels are particularly high. Your state Department of Health and Environment will be able to give you advice and usually have data sheets online.
If you are deciding whether to get chickens, ideally you will test the soil before getting them. However this means that you will need only be able to test the soil and not the chickens eggs. The soil might show very low traces of toxins giving you confidence to go ahead with getting them, however in order to thoroughly test what substances make it into the egg you will need to test again with the eggs laid by your chickens.
Only ‘Certified Organic’ products are grown and processed without the use of artificial synthetic chemicals, pesticides, fertilisers, hormones or GMOs. The ingredients for common feeds are sprayed with a range of chemicals during their lifetime and these substances make it into the pellets or seed that your chickens eat.
If the feed is not Certified Organic then your chickens eggs won’t be organic.
Can I relax now?
Testing your soil and feeding your chickens a certified organic feed will remove the big question mark over the organic integrity of your chickens eggs. If you wanted to take it up a notch, here are a few ideas to strive for organic perfection:
Hatch fertilised eggs
It is almost impossible to buy chicks or chickens that have been raised on certified organic starter and grower crumble. Other starter and grower crumble can contain medications in addition to the previously sprayed feed ingredients. If you look closely on the packaging of some of the common starter crumbles you may notice:
Warning: Do not feed to laying birds in production.
Feed only kitchen scraps sourced by a Certified Organic green grocer.
Vegetables not labelled certified organic have been previously sprayed with pesticides and insecticides.
If you were worried about the soil in your backyard you can build up the area underneath the chicken pen with new soil. You can also source certified organic soils which are your best option.
Should I still get chickens?
Yes! If the only trouble you went to was to feed your chickens a certified organic feed then your chickens eggs are already better than common store bought eggs.