Are Walnut Creek free range chickens laying meth-contaminated eggs?

About 15 years ago, people living in the house behind us (were) cooking and manufacturing illegal meth. They were finally arrested, and the house was sold.

Now the people who are living at the house have free range hens who peck all over their yard. My question is, do you think there is any residual harmful drugs in the ground where they are pecking?

Hope those eggs are safe to eat!

B.L., Walnut Creek

DEAR B.: Despite growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I didn’t break bad, so I don’t know a lot about the manufacture of meth. But there have been a lot of studies on the contamination of houses, including furnishings, although not as much on how meth labs might pollute the surrounding soil.

Studies have shown that even five years after a meth lab was shut down, the contamination can remain in the house and furnishings. There are fewer reports of ground contamination, but it happens if chemicals are dumped outside or poured down drains into septic tanks.

Are your neighbors aware of the storied history of their home, and were steps taken to decontaminate the house? If not, you should let them know. It could be more risky for them inside the house than for the chickens outside, but either way, they should be aware.

To be on the safe side, the owners should do a soil test and have their chickens checked by a vet. Backyard chickens, whether they’re living around former meth labs or not, also are at an increased risk of lead poisoning. If the chickens are acting oddly or are ill, that could be a sign of a problem.

DEAR JOAN: Every morning I sit in my easy chair with my coffee, enjoying the many birds and squirrels in my front yard.

A couple of months ago, I started seeing what I thought were baby squirrels. They are so small, however, they have not really grown. They are adorable, but what is going on?

How old are the “babies” when they come for the peanuts we put out for them and the birdseed out of the feeders we have out for the birds. Inquiring minds want to know.

Ruby Waderich, Vallejo

DEAR RUBY: That’s sounds like a lovely, relaxing way to start the day.

I’m not sure what squirrels you’re seeing, but the smallest species of squirrel that we have in California is the Douglas squirrel, which is about 12 to 13 inches from nose to tail tip. They are rare in the Bay Area, although they are seen in Sonoma County, your neighbor to the northwest.

It could be that you have two species of squirrels and that by comparison, one looks much smaller than the other. The most common squirrels here are the native Western gray and two imports, the Eastern fox and the Eastern gray. Of the three, the fox squirrel is the largest, measuring up to 30 inches from tip to tail. The Eastern and Western grays are about the same size: the Western measures up to 24 inches, and the Eastern at 21.
The babies — teenagers, really — start venturing out on their own at about 12 weeks, at which time they are roughly the same size as the adults. We don’t often see them when they are younger.