Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a powder made from fossilized diatoms found in old fresh water lake areas. DE has many uses, and can be an important part of backyard chicken care. Read on to find out how your chickens can benefit from DE, as long as it is used properly.
Food-grade DE can be sprinkled around the coop, run, and dust bathing area as a deodorizer and to keep insects away from your chickens. DE is a natural desiccant, drying out certain types of insects without harmful chemicals. DE can also be applied directly to lice or mite-infested chickens, beneath their wings and around the vent.
Always use a mask while spreading DE. While it contains no harmful chemicals, the dust can irritate the throat and lungs. Keep your chickens out of the area until the dust settles.
In her book, Fresh Eggs Daily (St. Lynn’s Press, 2013), Lisa Steele explains the differences of opinion surrounding using DE with chickens. “Some experts advise not using DE in dust bath areas because of the possible risks, but I feel that any yet-unproven possible risk is far outweighed by the very real chance if your chickens contracting mites and then possibly having to be treated with Sevin dust or another equally harmful carcinogen or commercial preparation – which I DO NOT recommend.” says Steele. She further advises that mixing DE with wood ash can lessen inhalation of DE by chickens.
Melissa Caughey, of the blog Tilly’s Nest, recommends the following when using DE with backyard chickens:
- 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.
More information on DE for chickens:
‘Diatomaceous Earth’ from UrbanChickens.org?
‘Diatomaceous Earth in Backyard Chicken Keeping’ by Melissa Caughey of Tilly’s Nest
‘All About Diatomaceous Earth in your Coop, Garden and Home’ by Lisa Steele of Fresh Eggs Daily