How does smoke, ash from wildfires affect chickens? Eggs? Ask an expert (2023)

Fall is here and all of those end-of-season projects are looming. If you’ve got questions, turn to Ask an Expert, an online question-and-answer tool from Oregon State University’s Extension Service. OSU Extension faculty and Master Gardeners reply to queries within two business days, usually less. To ask a question, simply go to the OSU Extension website and type in a question and the county where you live. Here are some questions asked by other gardeners. What’s yours?

Q: I wasn’t able to keep my chickens indoors during this last smoke season, so they were confined to the coop. Now that the smoke has cleared, they are allowed out to roam the yard. I had read an article regarding the possibility of heavy metal contamination in eggs from chickens that have been subjected to prolonged smoke exposure. UC Davis conducted a study on this after the Camp and Carr wildfires but I couldn’t find any results of that study. Are the eggs safe to eat and is there a withdrawal period after smoke exposure? – Jackson County

A: Research on the impact of ash and wildfires on chickens has only recently begun (as you found out by researching yourself). Below are resources that are available. Assessing risk will help you to make your own determination. Add clean soil, mulch, or other clean cover material to existing chicken runs to help reduce chickens' contact with and ingestion of contaminated soil. Use clean soil when constructing new chicken runs. Provide your chickens' regular feed in feeders and avoid scattering feed (including scratch grains and food scraps) on bare ground. How are my backyard poultry affected by nearby wildfires?

Understanding and Communicating the Risks of Urban Fires on Eggs Produced from Backyard Chickens in California

Produce Safety After Urban Fires

Teagan Moran, OSU Extension Small Farms program

Q: Our magnolia tree has developed white markings on just about all of its trunk and branches. We think it might be lichen. This seemed to have happened in the past week during a very rainy time here in Portland. Could you identify this and tell us what it is and if it is harmful to the tree, and if so, what could we treat it with. – Washington County

A: These crustose lichens are not a problem. Phlyctis argena, is often mistaken for a disease. You can read about them here. – Jay W. Pscheidt Extension plant pathologist

How does smoke, ash from wildfires affect chickens? Eggs? Ask an expert (1)

Q: I have an infestation on my broccoli as well as my Brussel sprouts. Can you tell me what these are and how I can battle them? – Clackamas County

A: The insects on your cole crops are cabbage aphids.

At this stage, the safest/best way to battle them is to blast the undersides of the leaves with a harsh water spray, then repeat every several days.

You can also use direct hits of commercial insecticidal soap, then repeat as needed, according to label directions.

Whatever your choice:

- You’ll get a head start if you physically brush them off the leaves. (If the ‘ick-factor’ is a problem, wear garden gloves and/or use paper toweling.)

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- It’s critical to repeat the treatment because you are guaranteed to miss at least an aphid or two which will continue giving live birth to an already pregnant aphid every 20 minutes!

Oh, yes. Here’s a heads up for next season:

As soon as you seed or set transplants of your cole crops, add floating row cover to protect them from aphids and caterpillars.

Here’s where to download the free publication How to Install Floating Row Cover. – Jean R. Natter, OSU Master Gardener diagnostician

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Q: My goal is to have dry beans for storage. I have healthy scarlet runner bean plants with many green pods but it seems unlikely these pods will be able to dry on the vine in our wet climate. Is there a point in the fall when I should harvest the green pods and let them dry indoors so that they don’t rot on the vine? When and how does one end their legume season during the wet western Oregon fall? – Benton County

A: Now would be a good time to end the bean season. Wet and damp does not bode well for drying down bean seeds or maintaining good germ.

One option is to simply pull the vines up and dry the entire plant in a dry and well-ventilated space, maybe even using a fan in a hot house or temporary polyethylene-covered area. I encourage you to do that now so you capture the last few days of sun before we get into even shorter and wetter days at the end of the month. After the pods are well dried and crispy, you can shell the beans and continue drying the seeds in doors. – Ed Peachey, OSU Extension horticulturist

Q: Several of my bushes have powdery mildew. I had a professional evaluate and he agreed and treated them once with sesame oil, but the problem has persisted and I think I need to treat them frequently. I am attempting to treat them with 100% cold-pressed neem oil with azadirachtin diluted and adding a dish soap free from additives to emulsify.

Is this a good product to use? If so, how often and when should I treat the bushes?

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I have pruned the white leaves of the redbud tree prior to spraying. I am also using this solution on some of my garden vegetables and trimming the affected leaves, though the season is almost over. It seems to have helped my zucchinis along with other preventive measures.

A: All in all, this year’s weather provided excellent environmental conditions for powdery mildew to thrive on many plants.

The bottom line: Once powdery mildew has begun, it is very difficult, to impossible, to control.

Then too, some plants are more susceptible than others, among them the cucurbit family (such as squash and cukes), choice vegetables for many gardeners.

Among other factors which enhance the likelihood of powdery mildew are these:

  • Insufficient sunlight (most veggies need at least six hours daily)
  • Poor air circulation resulting from a physical blockage such as a nearby structure or from plants set too close together
  • Excess humidity within the planting, perhaps due to watering late in the day
  • Stressed plants, whatever the cause, but often related to water available to the roots.

In order to limit an active case of powdery mildew, gardeners must apply their preferred remedy at the first hint of the disease.

Once vegetable leaves are seriously affected, removing and discarding that leaf is effective. At this late in the year (October), you might as well start cleaning out the garden in preparation for next season.

If deciduous shrubs are affected, one can attempt to stop continued infection. If unsuccessful, rake and discard all fallen leaves.

If evergreen shrubs are affected, they may need a change of environmental conditions. Depending upon the shrub at hand, that may mean transplanting it elsewhere in the garden. – Jean R. Natter, OSU Master Gardener diagnostician

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Does wildfire smoke affect chickens? ›

Chickens, too, are very sensitive to wildfire smoke. If they've been pecking at the windows, it's likely they are asking to be let inside. A temporary shelter in a basement, or even a shower, can provide a safe alternative to hazardous outdoor air.

Is smoke harmful to chickens? ›

Practical Actions. It's a good idea to rinse your run down a few times a day during the peak of the smoky season. This will help to not only temporarily clear the air of smoke particles, but also dampen down the excess dust that can be harmful to your chickens' lungs.

Will the air quality affect my chickens? ›

Birds have very sensitive respiratory systems. They are more at risk of complications due to poor air quality exposure than humans and other animals.

How does wildfire smoke affect birds? ›

But studies have shown that smoke can damage birds' lungs and make them more vulnerable to respiratory infections. And the fine particulate matter that is present in smoke — and causes well-documented health problems in humans — can also accumulate in birds' airways.

Can chickens use fireplace ash? ›

Ashes help to rid the body of toxins and intestinal parasites. Ashes contain an abundance of calcium and also a good source of potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. Adding a ration of 1% ash to your hens' feed improves the quality and duration of laying. Ashes reduce the smell of droppings.

Can chickens have fire ash? ›

Wood Ash - One of the best things to add to the dirt is wood ash. It contains vitamin K, calcium and magnesium, which is great for the birds' health. It also absorbs toxins from the pores, so acts as a kind of medicine. Chickens will usually eat some of the ash too.

What smells are toxic to chickens? ›

Perfumes, nail polish remover, hairspray, spray deodorant, scented candles, and air fresheners can all be dangerous to use around birds.

What is the danger zone for smoking poultry? ›

Because smoking uses low temperatures to cook food, the meat will take too long to thaw in the smoker, allowing it to linger in the "Danger Zone" (temperatures between 40 and 140 °F) where harmful bacteria can multiply.

Can chickens survive smoke inhalation? ›

If birds survive a fire they may die later of smoke inhalation and exposure to toxins and chemicals: soot, carbon monoxide, cyanide gas, nitrogen and methane. There can be injuries to the upper and lower airways and oxygen deprivation.

Are chickens sensitive to fumes? ›

Birds are especially sensitive to respiratory irritants and can become rapidly ill by inhaling chemical vapors. DON'T use any insecticides on your birds or on anything in their environment without first consulting your veterinarian.

How does carbon dioxide affect chickens? ›

Chicks metabolize their food more slowly under high-CO2 levels. By regulating CO2, growers can shorten the time it takes to transform the chicks into broilers or egg laying hens.

How does wildfire smoke affect livestock? ›

Smoke can also aggravate heart and lung diseases such as congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and asthma. Livestock that are burned by wildfires may experience shock, pain, and systemic complications.

How do you help birds with wildfire smoke? ›

How to keep your pets safe from wildfire smoke. Like humans, the first line of protection for pets is staying indoors whenever possible. Even indoors, birds are particularly at risk. Keeping them in a room with sealed windows and an air purifier can help.

Can birds survive smoke inhalation? ›

For example, veterinarians and poultry scientists who study captive birds have found that smoke can damage lung tissue and leave the animals susceptible to potentially lethal respiratory infections.

Is the smell of smoke bad for birds? ›

Air pollution

Birds are also extremely susceptible to any source of smoke. Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and vaporizers should not be used around your bird. If these products are used, it important to only use them outside; smoking in "the other room" is not considered safe for birds because smoke travels.

How does smoke from wildfires affect animals? ›

These toxins can damage lung tissue, and lead to low blood oxygen levels or high blood carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. This can cause confusion and stupor, sometimes making animals more vulnerable to predation as they attempt to flee wildfires. Unfortunately, these lung injuries can last much longer than the fire itself.


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