by Melissa Caughey of Tilly’s Nest
By now, if you keep chickens you have come across or at least heard about diatomaceous earth. It has many uses and benefits for the backyard flock. Diatomaceous earth was formed a very long time ago. It is made from fossilized, microscopic, hard-shelled algae called diatoms. Diatomaceous earth attacks fleas, ticks, mites, and digestive tract worms by slicing into the outer shell or layer of their bodies. This process, called desiccation, leads to dehydration causing most of the pests to die in a matter of hours. Diatomaceous earth works best in dry settings. When wet, it’s effectiveness is questionable. When you are using diatomaceous earth with your chickens be sure that it is food grade diatomaceous earth only (FGDE). This is critical as diatomaceous earth is used in other situations and not all diatomaceous earth on the market is food grade.
|Photo Credit: furtwangl|
Why Should It Be Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (FGDE)?
- You can add FGDE to their chicken feed.
- They are exposed to the FGDE in their day to day living.
- What they eat is passed on into the eggs that we consume.
- Products used in and around the coop should always keep safety in mind.
|Photo Credit: waitscm|
Try adding FGDE to your flock’s food supply
- Add a volume of 2% to the feed amount.
- Adding this to the feed supplies the flock with trace minerals boosting their nutrition.
- Some use FGDE on a daily basis as a worming preventative/treatment mixed in their feed.
- It is safe to use in your garden to combat slugs, snails and so forth for free-ranging flocks.
- Adding FGDE to the food supply keeps bugs from living in the feed.
- Clean the nesting boxes.
- Sprinkle the dry cleaned out boxes with FGDE.
- Add fresh clean bedding on top.
- Rub the FGDE along the roosts and into the nooks and crannies.
- You can also sprinkle it on the coop floor and blast it into small crevices with a Pest Pistol.
- This helps to keep mites and lice from dining on your flock during egg laying, broodiness and sleeping.
- This lets the chickens dust themselves with the FGDE in addition to their regular dust baths.
- This acts as a natural booster to the benefits of regular dust bathing.
- Wear a mask when using FGDE.
- Let the cloud of FGDE dissipate prior to working in that area.
- Ventilate the coop well when applying and using FGDE.
- Most chickens live out their natural lives prior to developing Silicosis.
- Avoid using FGDE if you have a pre-existing lung condition.
- On an aside note, Silicosis can also be caused from the use of sand (silica dust) in the coop and run. So please take the above precautions for yourself when you are working with sand as well.
|Photo Credit: randomlife|
Disclosure: I purchased a Pest Pistol from Treat for Chickens almost 4 years ago, prior to them becoming my sponsor. It is one of my all time favorite products that I highly recommend. These opinions are all my own and in no way have I been compensated or asked to mention any of their products in my posts. All photos in this post were used under Creative Commons License.
Nice article thanks this post share
When using DE to worm, do you have to throw their eggs away for a period of time?
You do not need to throw the eggs away when using DE. It is safe for humans to eat as well.
Agreed, Diatomaceous earth is made up of fossilized aquatic organisms called diatoms. The fossilized remains are silica, which is used in humans for treating high cholesterol levels and constipation. In chickens, diatomaceous earth is used to treat both external and internal parasites. It is excreted in the chicken manure and doesn’t pass into the yolk or albumen.
I’m wondering how much DE I need to use in the feed. Lets say I have a 25lb of starter/grower feed (which I do), how much DE would I put in the entire 25lb bag of feed????
If I put too much is it harmful to the chickens????
25 x .02 = .5
So, half a pound of DE for a 25lb bag of food.
I don’t think a bit more would hurt them in the short run. But long term, adding a lot more might eventually make it hard for the chickens to keep up enough water in take. I would say, get the measurements as close as you can, but don’t get overly stressed about minor variations.
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I have a Pet Rooster that we locals think has Gape worm. I just gave him 2 teaspoons of Diatomaceous Earth on some canned corn & bread pieces..he has been coughing and shaking his head pretty badly plus walking with his beak open for a week and was not getting better. how long before my poor boy get some relief from this nasty worm?
Thank You, Dot
I would like to try anything to keep mites out and the chicken coop smelling better!
How often should you use diatomaceous earth?
I would say a minimum of twice per year for three-four weeks in a row. Once about mid-spring and one at the end of fall.
In India, we realized the benefits of Diatomaceous Earth when tackling a bed bug infestation at our home some time ago. Seeing its effectiveness we have been promoting it in India. As we have tried to learn more about it and interacted with some agricultural and horticultural scientists, they have enlightened us to its several uses including poultry care as mentioned here.
The challenge that we have faced here with poultry industry is that they are very price conscious segment and they feel DE is not very cost effective for them. Have you faced similar challenges for it in your country or heard people mentioning it?
Pooja @ Diatomaceous Earth for Pest Control
We, my bride and I take some Food grade DE every so often for worms and parasites. Just drink it down with some juice. Way cheaper at the feed store or your county Co Op.
It is easier to give her than having her get on all fours and hold her head back while I put a dog pellet in her mouth while rubbing her throat to get it down. Can you picture that????
For our chickens, we simply put a couple of cups full or so in our 5 gallon feeder after filling it with feed and it will work its way down. Don’t worry about the amount as it will not hurt them, only the bad things.
Interesting how folks fill the internet on how to worm all animals and fowl but never think of worming themselves.
i want to buy some diatomaceous earth,
have looked on the net but so many
i want for my chickens and ducks
any suggestions were to buy the correct product
i live in queensland australia
It’s in WA but they ship over East.
Does anyone know if MannaPro Pure DEfense Diatomaceous Earth is Food grade? Package doesn’t say and there is no info on their website. Wanting to use it in coop. Thanks
Thank you for sharing great information to us.
I use FDE in nest boxes, floor,dusting turtle bath, and have even dusted chickens by hand. I also put it in their feed container. If you don’t want to use it, don’t and that is fine. If you can’t state your opinion without being “snarky”, then just move on. Why do people have to be so negative if they don’t agree. I read these blogs for information, how I choose to apply it or not is up to me. Thank you FED and others.
Skye of Green Acre Farm
Well put Skye of Green Acre Farm. Thank you.
If you go to TSC try asking for livestock deworner….I didn’t even know my store carried it until they showeds me
Great tip! Thank you.
People crack me up with anonymous nastiness. Gee. I currently have many of the chickie girls I started with four years ago-healthy, still laying. I have seven different breeds. I have used food grade DE everywhere consistently during all this time. No wheezy chickens in Cluckingham Palace. However, I am hoping that a coyote’s insides are being desiccated after caring off several of my sweet girls.
Darn coyotes. I am so sorry to hear that the stole your sweet girls. Thanks for sharing your experiences with the FGDE.
Melissa, good article, but it is important to mention that it is NOT necessary to dust everything, crack and crevices, or sprinkle it everywhere as though fumigating the coop. If small amounts of DE are added to nesting material, food, and/or dry ground (where they dust bathe), the birds will spread it everywhere through their dusting, scratching, and preening activities.
Thank you for sharing so much on all of these comment strings. Your input is very much appreciated by the community.
My hens run for their lives when they see the cloud of dust from DE. I am not sure if they are breathing it or just see the “ghost” and think it is dangerous. I never sprinkle near them, but they still see the cloud.
Sounds like your girls are pretty smart 🙂
Diatomaceous earth is drying and micro-abrasive; maybe it hurts their eyes. Also, the pool-grade DE isn’t as good as the food grade, not because of chemical additives, but because it’s heat treated, and the heat melts back the fine sharp fractured edges of the particles so they no longer cut. Although I had a bunch of the pool-grade and dumped it all over my tiger lilies that were being attacked by red lily beetles, and it seemed to help.
Thank you for posting this. I use DE (food grade) for it’s many benefits. Common sense approach when apply and dusting, by wearing protective goggles and protective medical grade air purifying respirator.
Thank you for tuning in to Community Chickens and being part of the community.
The goggles are unnecessary and the respirator is overkill. You only need a small cheap ‘medical’ mask if you work with it regularly. Humans can ingest it and it is used for health and medical benefits, including detoxing and deworming.
Thanks for settling some of my worrisome thoughts about using DE. I used a little in the coop and dust bath but did not go crazy because I worried about the chickens breathing it…now I feel better about that aspect of it. I of course take great precautions for myself when dusting it around. Thanks for sharing this information.
You are very welcome. I am glad that you found this article helpful.
Pesticides are pesticides; be they natural or man-made. It is a gross miss-understanding to believe that just because something is natural it must be safer than something that is man-made.
DE, and FGDE are great pesticides, but as this great article pointed out, FGDE is NOT – non-toxic.
Like any pesticide you should read the label and SDS (MSDS are transitioning to SDS – look up the Global Harmonization System for Hazard Communication more information)
For those who doubt that DE can be hazardous here is a link to a Safety Data Sheet: http://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9923703
Anything taken the wrong way can be potentially toxic, but me, I’ll take my chances with something that controls parasites but is perfectly edible (Yes, I’ve eaten DE myself!) vs. something like Sevin Dust – a known carcinogen. Nothing is perfect, but sometimes you have to choose the lesser of two evils and I thought Melissa was pretty clear about potential risks.
I agree, just think of all the chemicals you would need to treat the parasites they would be more likely to get without the use of DE. I take safety precautions for myself when using it and feel a little better about having it around my chickens now.
DE IS NOT A PESTICIDE! It is nothing more than the microscopic exoskelletons of single celled aglae called diatoms and is effective due to its abrasive and physico-sorptive properties. The fine powder absorbs lipids from the waxy outer layer of insects’ exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate. Arthropods die as a result of the water pressure deficiency, based on Fick’s law of diffusion.
Anything which repels, kills or otherwise mitigates a “pest” is a pesticide. DE has been regulated as a pesticide for many decades. The use of DE is regulated, and requires formal training, right-to-know employee training, personal protective equipment training, and public pesticide notifications as well as pesticide record keeping pursuant to both Federal and many State laws such as in California.
It would seem that “whitewashing” the DE on the inside of your coop wouldn’t work as the liquid used in the mixture would negate the positive effects of the DE…per what the article said.
My farm vet said it doesn’t make sense to him that DE would work as an internal parasite killer as any sharp edges sharp enough to cut into and kill parasites would be more than sharp enough to shred the birds’ intestines themselves. That seems to make sense to me. How would you respond to that?
DE is used in livestock-cows, sheep, horses, pigs and goats to as a natural wormer.
The article states ” When wet, it’s effectiveness is questionable.”
It does not say that it become ineffective. I know folks on both sides of this argument. If the whitewash is working for this person, I am glad they shared it. It is a great idea and some folks may benefit from them sharing their experiences.
Your vet does not understand DE and how it works. DE is the exoskeleton of microscopic single celled algae. These exoskeletons have razor sharp spikes and edges. Diatomite is used AS an insecticide (but is NOT AN INSECTICIDE), due to its abrasive and physico-sorptive properties. The fine powder absorbs lipids from the waxy outer layer of insects’ exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate. Arthropods die as a result of the water pressure deficiency, based on Fick’s law of diffusion. This also works against gastropods and is commonly employed in gardening to defeat slugs. However, since slugs inhabit humid environments, efficacy is very low. It is sometimes mixed with an attractant or other additives to increase its effectiveness. Medical-grade diatomite is sometimes used to de-worm both animals and humans, with questionable efficacy. It is commonly used in lieu of boric acid, and can be used to help control and possibly eliminate bed bug, house dust mite, cockroach and flea infestations. This material has wide application for insect control in grain storage. DE will not harm the insides of animals, birds, fish, etc.
In order to be effective as an insecticide, diatomaceous earth must be uncalcinated (i.e., it must not be heat-treated prior to application) and have a mean particle size below about 12 microns..
DE is said not cause problems in the lungs of humans.
Just naming a health condition doesn’t make it so. Give me some hard evidence anyone has had a medical condition from handling DE.
This is also a poorly written article. Some people do this…no really? How about being informative. I’ll bet this is the same article I have read else where the past couple of years. Either this is out right plagiarism for failing to list sources(and if you argue common knowledge then what’s the point of the article? You’ve added absolutely nothing new to the discussion), or you are the same hack writer peddling this crappy article across the circuit. Either way blah blah boring.
Using DE in the garden is one of the most stupid and worst uses for it. It doesn’t just kill pests it also kills beneficial organisms in the garden. There is no fix all, no little pill that acts as a panacea for all the ills you. It’s a combination of factors.
This isn’t an article in Science Magazine. Maybe you should go there to find your references. These articles are for people who want general information in a friendly community. DE is still better than using chemicals.
this format is for those of us who enjoy our birds and receive and pass on information that someone else might enjoy reading. if you enjoy being so critical of others maybe you should look elsewhere. I here there is an opening for a new movie critic.
So much talk for someone whose name is anonymous!!
Any fine particulate will eventually cause respiratory problems in humans AND animals Anonymous. DE needs to be used with care – and you’re right in gardens it should be used sparingly because it will kill ‘good’ bugs like ladybugs, bees, praying mantis, etc. but as far as using it in the coop and run area, I have YET to see any good bugs hanging out there! And DE controls the flies that can carry disease to my flock.
This is a community forum where much of the information shared may be ‘common knowledge’ for you but I have kept chickens for a long time and read a lot and I always learn something new even on topics I am already well-versed.
Oh, Anonymous #1. Did someone hurt you?
This isn’t a blog post about using DE in the garden, it’s about using it in your coop.
This post is FULL of new things for many readers, there are many new chicken keepers every day turning to the internet for clarification of things they have heard in passing. This post is of great value to them.
Lastly, since this blog was FREE for you to read, you are FREE to move on to bother someone else. Take your righteous indignation & aspersions of plagiarism elsewhere.
FGDE may be bought at Tractor Supply also I believe food grade is from fresh water as the DE for pool filters is from salt water
You can buy food grade DE at Amazon.com in 1#-10# and even 50# bags. They have the Pest Pistol also.
I had a problem with ants in my greenhouse in a container. I use 55 gallon drums cut in half with the edges rolled for safety. anyway one half drum was infested with small red ants and I decided to move it to a different spot in the GH. I shoveled the dirt into a wheelbarrow,moved the container and refilled it. Of course all the ants moved with the dirt and all the while I was doing this I kept wondering how to get rid of them. I finally remembered I had some FGDE. I sprinkled it over the top so it looked like confectioners sugar on baked goods. It didn’t seem to bother them and they just walked right through the stuff.I didn’t think it was going to work but imagine my surprise the next morning when there was not an ant to be seen.That’s been 3 months ago and no sign of an ant.
Wonderful! Thank you for sharing your experiences and your resources with us. It is very much appreciated!
thanks for the info LeRoy, I’m going to use some of DE in
the house it seems the ants want to move in
We use DE under the nesting material and a thin layer under the roost to control order.It also binds things together making cleaning these locations easier.
Wonderful! Great tips. Thank you!
Was wondering if you could comment upon the food grade versions with and without clay/bentonite. I was always told to use the white FGDE, and not the red/gray… but the more comments I read, I think the people making those comments are the manufacturers of the white FGDE.
I do think, despite the FOOD GRADE warning – it is worth mentioning for folks who use it in their pool filters… that pool DE is NOT food grade, it has been processed with chemicals. Don’t use pool DE for your chickens or coop.
So – who can give me the REAL story about FGDE with bentonite!?
I wish I had those answers for you. I always use the white variety myself. Yes, great point about the pool DE. Definitely a no-no for sure. Let me see if I can find you some information on the DE with Bentonite. Stay tuned!
In some quick research, I have found that Bentonite is a type of clay derived from volcanic ash. It absorbs liquid very well. Knowing that DE possibly lacks some if its effectiveness when wet, perhaps it is added for two reasons:
1. To help keep the DE dry when in it’s packaging.
2. To help absorb any moisture when in use. Zeolite is another volcanic ash product used to absorb moisture in the coop and keep odors down. Manna Pro makes a product called Coop and Compost. This is the active ingredient.
I hope this information is helpful to you.
I only use the red/gray DE, because of the clay. The bentonite clay is perfectly safe as it is used for several health and medical reasons. Bentonite has been prescribed as a bulk laxative, and it is also used as a base for many dermatologic formulas. Granular bentonite called Woundstat TM is now being studied for use in battlefield wound dressings. Bentoquatam is a bentonate-based topical medication intended to act as a shield against exposure to urushiol, the oil found in plants such as poison ivy or poison oak. Bentonite is also used as a detox. Many bird species, such as amazonian parrots/macaws frequent clay cliffs to gorge on clay to help remove the toxins they ingest in many of the nuts and berries that they eat.
Hi Jane, I am so sorry to hear this. I can tell you that it is available online from Treats for Chickens and Manna Pro just released their very own as well. If your local feed store carries Manna Pro products they should be able to order it. It is called Pure DEfense.
Ok just to be sure. You are saying Pure Defense by Manna Pro is food grade. Is that right?
In my area when you go to the farm and feed, garden center, or nursery (big box store or small business)and ask for DE or Diatomaceous earth they look at you like you have two heads. I always have to explain what it is….last time it was at a family owned nursery that has been in business many years…they acted like I was nuts yet have tons of other organic products for the garden. I finally found some food grade DE at a going out of business auction of a nursery. Bought all I could.
Many feed stores carry it (Southern States) and it is also available online.
I uae DE at least once a week mixed in the feed of all my animals as a deterrant to intestinal worms – unlike commercial wormers, I don’t have to worry about throwing out the eggs for a couple of weeks while the poison works out of their system! Keeps the flys down, and the girls love dusting in it.
Oh yes, it is really wonderful in the feed. In fact, I too have noticed that we don’t have too many flies. What a nice coincidence.
Great post Melissa. I am reading more and more bloggers only presenting the dangers of DE – and instead recommending dusting chickens with Sevin Dust to rid them of mites. I believe, as you do, that a chicken will live out its normal life FAR before developing any issues from breathing DE. Common sense has to prevail and your cautions are the same that I recommend. I believe the benefits of using DE far outweigh any risks. Interesting also that sand can present the same dangers.
Fresh Eggs Daily
Thank you for sharing your opinion as well. It is always nice to hear what fellow chicken keepers do as well. This is why I love being part of this community.
I paint the inside of the wooden coop with a sludge made from DE, water and a little detergent (to make it sticky). Mix to a thick, gloss like consistency and simply slap it on. When it dries it sticks until rubbed off, so easy to mix and apply.
How neat! Thank you for sharing with us. Almost like a whitewash idea.
Reall like that idea. Previous leukemia patient and like my fresh eggs AND my own girls to give ’em. So, I do alot of natural things for them. Free range as I can, but coop when I’m gone or weather is in-hospital-able. Pun intended.
Your detergent acts more as a spreader, it breaks the surface tension (this is a good idea). I use baby shampoo, safer for flock if they ingest it. Adding some white granulated sugar makes a good “sticker”. You can also add some “Listerine” (the original brown one), it kills bacteria and other pathogens. There are commercial “spreader/stickers”, stay away from them. They are made from petroleum by products . I don’t even use them in my garden. I use the bay shampoo and sugar as my spreader/sticker.
Excellent post! I’ve used FGDE for several years in the coop and in the gardens with great results. I like the way you’ve itemized each point–easy to read and understand. Thanks for this good reference post.
Thank you Meredith! I really appreciate your feedback so very much. Glad you enjoyed the post.
I have lots of worms in my garden, I put nothing in the garden that will hurt the worms, how about the FGDE is it safe for the worms?
Worms have no problem with diatomaceous earth, which works in 2 ways. With microscopic pests, it slices them open. With insects, it gets breathed in through their spicules, and suffocated them.
Worth remembering is that it can also affect spiders,ladybugs, and other beneficials, but only while its dry and dusty.