If you tried to get a chicken during the pandemic, you were pretty much set for disappointment unless you had a 'contact'. I did both - I needed a new chicken and I had a contact, but not before I found myself in a momentary flap when I discovered that hens were as scarce as their proverbial teeth. Turns out that thousands of us got chickens during COVID. But I was in for another surprise that came from left field.
Backyard chickens are easy to love. They are low-maintenance pets, are great little composters, making free fertilizer, and fresh eggs. Problem is that many urban backyards contain lead. Research around the world continues to confirm that levels of legacy lead from paint, petrol, pipes. A recent Australian report showed lead levels in some backyards were 40 times higher than store bought eggs.
The likelihood of lead at your place isn't uniform however. It really depends on the age and location of your home. What is uniform is that lead is lead is a potent neurotoxin, associated with reduced IQ, attention-related behavior problems, and poor academic achievement in children exposed to it through food or environmental factors. The Australian study detailed the different locations in the capital cities across Australia where the research was conducted so you can check your area for a general idea.
Lead is cumulative so as your chickens scratch and peck ground that contains lead, they slowly accululate more and more of it in thier body until it becomes lethal in many cases. As for passing it on to you, About half the eggs analysed in the study contained lead at levels that may pose a health concern for consumers.
If you have suspicions about the likelihood of lead in your ground soil though, it's worth getting it checked.