Poultry Keepers Best Friend May 16, 2012
Have you heard of Diatomaceous Earth? Listen closely, for it is the best thing since peanut butter and for chicken keepers it is your best friend. Take heart if you’re interested in keeping medications to a minimum, because it is non-toxic and totally natural. Plus, it’s accepted in organic feed regimens.
What is it? Is is the skeletal remains of little creatures called diatoms that used to inhabit the waters of fresh water lakes (eons ago) when the southwest held large bodies of water. As they died and fell to the bottom of the lake, they accumulated and now in some areas, since the water is no longer there, the diatoms exist to a depth of 400 feet deep, What good is it? It is good to keep lice and mites out of your coop and off of your chickens. I put it in my chicken feed at the recommended ratio of 1lb for every 50 lbs of feed and, though there’s no scientific data as of yet to prove this, we backyard chicken keepers wholeheartedly believe it keeps our flocks worm-free. And listen to this: it has killed all the fire ants in my yard.
My husband used to poison the ants and they would pack up and move. Once I got chickens we could no longer spread poison and that’s when I discovered Diatomaceous Earth (DE for short). When we started using it the fire ants disappeared. It kills all manner of bugs except the earthworm. It penetrates the waxy protective cuticle on bugs and absorbs many times its weight in moisture, so the bugs die of dehydration. (And beware: it’s a dessicant, so it’ll absorb moisture and dry your hands out, too!)
I use DE in my nest box to keep the lice and mites away from my fine feathered friends. When I clean the coop, I sprinkle some on the floor and in the corners, cracks and crevices. Then I mix some more into the fresh shavings. I sprinkle a small amount of DE where my chickens take their dust baths, too, so it gets nice and close to their skin when they dust themselves.
But there is MORE. It is good for your garden! (See our other blog posts on chickens and gardens here, by the way. Most of us at MPC love our gardens, too.) I sprinkle it on tomato plants, beans, peas, anything. Since it is non-toxic and food-grade, it is safe as the vegetables themselves and the bugs can not take it. It penetrates their hides and gets in their eyes and causes them to dry out and die. My dwarf peach tree use to lose EVERY leaf every year to the Japanese Beetles. Not any more – that tree hasn’t lost a leaf in two years, thanks to DE. You can also use it in your kitchen to get rid of ants and perish the thought, roaches. Just name the bug and DE comes to the rescue.
If all that isn’t enough, it also works on fleas in your carpet and on your pets, their beds and kennels and, it is sure okay if Fluffy licks herself because again, it is a food-grade quality product. I hear some people even use it on themselves to get rid of heavy metal poisons in the body. Don’t believe all these wild claims? Read about DE on Wikipedia.
A WORD OF CAUTION – DE is also used in swimming pools and that is NOT food grade quality. It originates from salt water sources and chickens and salt do not mix. Also, “regular” quality DE has higher levels of silicates, which you don’t want. to be sure never to use what is intended for swimming pools and only purchase the food grade variety. The other things you have to watch out for with DE are:
- Your hands: wear gloves while applying, or they will get irritated and dry.
- Breathing: be careful when you apply it not to go shaking it into the air and breathing it in. It’ll mildly irritate your lungs.
- Don’t use too much of it. A little goes a long way.
Of course, we offer the good food-grade Diatomaceous Earth at My Pet Chicken. You will find it listed under chicken health and the brand name is Perma-Guard. Told you, best thing since peanut butter.
Well, bye for now. I have talked myself into a peanut butter sandwich.