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.

Diatomaceous Earth, at the microscopic and macroscopic

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:

  1. Your hands: wear gloves while applying, or they will get irritated and dry.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

LindaG May 16th, 2012

Thanks for all this great information on DE!

Susan Teague May 17th, 2012

I also use it as a daily wormer for my horses! I mix about 1/4 cup in their feed. I use iton my chickens as stated above and my garden and you can put it in a capsule and take it daily to be parasite free as well!! Make sure it is FOOD GRADE!! Good blog!

Mark May 17th, 2012

Diatomaceous Earth keeps the cockroaches from living in my nest boxes. I used to have a big problem, but, when I change the straw bedding, I sprinkle a little underneath around in the corners. Big change.

Stephanie May 17th, 2012

I have been using DE for 1 1/2 years now. I am so happy with it!
I try to tell all my chicken friends about it. Actually all my friends, because I put it in my dog and cats food as well. I have had chickens for 1 1/2 years now and I have not had a SINGLE issue yet. I credit it to the DE. In their food, in the coop and in their nest boxes! Go get some today!!!

Gina Brown May 17th, 2012

I just bought a bag not too long ago and have used it in the coop. What’s the easiest way to mix in with the feed? My chicks are 9weeks old and have been outside now for 2 weeks. They are loving life and I want to keep them healthy! This is my first flock! 🙂

Shelley O May 17th, 2012

I put DE in a cleaned out baby powder container to make it easier to handle. 🙂

Debbie May 17th, 2012

I love DE-have used it on my (other) pets for years! Didn’t realize I could add it to the chick’s food-will do so now! For some reason I’ve been saving it for their outside dust bath…and they’re too little to go out yet.

Great info!!

Melissa May 17th, 2012

I have to try that baby powder bottle, Great idea!

Laura Spinale May 17th, 2012

Thanks for all the info. Gonna have to order up some today!

Joann May 17th, 2012

I use it on my dogs as well and its a wonderful wormer for all animals and chickens of coarse will be using it in my coups now that I read about it

Julie R May 18th, 2012

I would love to hear more about HOW to apply the DE when using for ants and in the garden. Sprinkle it around? Mix it with something that they eat? 🙂

Cindi May 18th, 2012

I love the idea of using it in the garden. My only concern is that it will kill the beneficial insects as well as the bad ones. Would love to hear someones comments about that please.

Jenna Brown May 18th, 2012

How does DE kill worms in the body of an animal if it works by absorbing water? Wouldn’t it lose all of it’s killing power as soon as it hit the chicken’s stomach? Also, if it won’t kill earthworms, why would it kill any other type of worn?

Julia May 18th, 2012

I can’t wait to go get some….today!

Cindy June 21st, 2012

Thanks Joyce! I read the article after you told me about it the other day on the phone. It’s a great article and tons of help. I used DE in my coop!

Tierney Clark June 24th, 2012

I just ordered some DE and can’t wait to get it. I have a problem with flies and of course Florida Palmetto bugs that live under the fallen leaves of my Magnolia tree. The leave are like leather and never dry up and the bugs love them. Thanks for the info.

Tierney Clark July 25th, 2012

Hello to all. I recently read this article from Joyce about DE, and I have to say wow! I ordered some from MPC and have sprinkled it in and around my chicken’s run, coop, and surrounding area, and it’s the greatest! I am even rubbing it on my dogs to keep the fleas off! I also feed it to the girls daily, and sprinkle it on my tomato plants.
I just love MPC and all the advise that is to be found here! Yesterday, a local farm and garden place, called Mid-South Lumber, who loves you guys, and who posts on Facebook, regularly from your site, put up a recipe for improved natural feed, and I’m going to make it right away and use it. I have learned so much, such as the crushed oyster shells, the DE, not to mention the apple cider vinegar in the water! Not only does it help against respitory problems, it keeps the slime from forming in the water bucket, thus making it easier to clean. I also got the idea to pick a “salad” for my girls every day because I can’t let them free range due to my dogs. A big double handfull of broadleaf weeds is a daily treat for them and I’m sure it is a good addtition to their diet ( no long grass, they can’t chew it!).
I also learned to freeze gallon milk jugs of water to put in their bucket to keep their water cold in the daytime. In Florida it gets mighty hot, and your girls can stop laying, and be very uncomfortable. Along with the ice water, Ive put their run in the shade, and because it never just rains here, it storms, I have a piece of tin over part of it so they can get out of the rain and still stay out. The other day my daughter and I were cutting limbs and got the idea to put the long branches on top of the run too, so now its nice and cool, and shady all over. I also hose them off for a minute each day, and wet the ground a little to keep it cooler. They seem to appreciate the cool shower.
I must say that all these little things have been a real big help in their egg production, as well as their comfort. It is July and they are still giving eggs as well as ever!
Keep up the good work, and keep the info coming! I come here every day and browse the blogs, and look at the girls daily, because I am going to keep adding to my flock of 12. Just call me the crazy chicken lady!
Tierney Clark
Panama City, Fl.

helen chavis September 15th, 2012

THANK YOU for posting this article i had no idea what to do about the fire ants in my yard because of my almost 30 chickens that cant stay in a pen more than a couple hours with out laud protest(my chickens are very spoiled) pesticdes are out of the question this would be a great ecofriendly alternative 🙂

Katrina Sokolosky May 23rd, 2017

Is food grade also organic? If not, is there something else? If you have to wear gloves, why use it? I am learning and not judging, just trying to understand the product. Thanks!

Lissa May 31st, 2017

In general, “food grade” doesn’t necessarily equate to “organic.” After all, carrots can be organic or not, but both are “food grade” (or safe for consumption). That said, usually DE is considered an organic treatment by certifying agencies, and it is derived from fossilized algae. It is mostly silica, and depending on the type will have other “impurities” like clay soils. You might check with your certifying agency or your local extension office to see if DE treatment can be used while maintaining an organic certification.

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