Diatomaceous Earth Uses in Chickens

How to Use Diatomaceous Earth For Your Chickens

Diatomaceous Earth Uses in Chickens

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Have you ever wondered about diatomaceous earth uses in poultry? When I first started raising chickens for eggs, I noticed that many poultry people talked about using something that they only referred to as “DE.” Not being one who knows many chicken acronyms, I was clueless about what they were referring to. I read several sites and did some research of my own and quickly found that they were referring to a natural substance called diatomaceous earth. I bought a big jar of food grade diatomaceous earth and set about using it around our home and chicken coop and I have to admit, the stuff is amazing!

What is Diatomaceous Earth?

Diatomaceous earth is actually the fossilized skeletons of tiny creatures called diatoms. Diatoms can live in fresh or sea water and are a form of algae. They differ in shape and size, but what they have in common is that they are microscopically small. DE is found in deposits all over the world. Depending on the deposit location, the DE is composed of either fresh water or sea water fossilized diatoms. It is mined from open pit mines and then ground in the size needed for various applications. The DE that I use is almost a flour consistency.

How is Diatomaceous Earth Used?

Diatomaceous earth has a number of uses which include industrial uses like the stabilization of nitroglycerin in dynamite, filtration medium for swimming pools, and as a mild abrasive in some toothpastes. The DE used in dynamite and swimming pools is not food grade and often has been treated with high heat or contains higher levels of heavy metals. The products that contain DE used for human and animal use, is generally fresh water DE and has been tested to contain approved levels of other substances. This form of diatomaceous earth is the form that I’ll be discussing today.

Food grade DE is used as an additive to grain to prevent clumping and to encourage free flow of the grain  It’s also used in cat litter for absorbency and in fact, is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control as a way to clean up toxic spills. It’s an extremely effective killer of crawling insect pests.

Diatomaceous Earth Uses: How It Works

diatomaceous earth uses 2

The fossilized remains of the diatoms have incredibly sharp edges as well as spiny protrusions. They are porous, which is what causes them to be so effective when being used to absorb fluid. When an insect encounters the DE, the sharp edges of the diatoms interrupt the waxy exterior of their exoskeleton by absorbing lipids which causes the insect to dehydrate and die.

Diatomaceous Earth Uses: Is It Safe For My Chickens? 

Food grade diatomaceous earth is totally natural. Various writers on the internet have dismissed its use with poultry because they claim that it contains silica which can be harmful. Food grade, freshwater DE contains little to no crystalline silica. Any fine dust or powder can cause lung, eye, or skin irritation, so care should be taken when applying DE over a large space. It is often recommended to wear a mask while spreading DE and to immediately change your clothes and to wash your skin to remove residue. The content of silica in food grade, freshwater diatomaceous earth is monitored by OSHA. Diatomaceous earth is safe for external use with poultry and so far I’ve not experienced any respiratory, eye, or skin issues with my birds.

Diatomaceous Earth Uses with Your Flock

Keepers of backyard chickens generally use DE to control pests in their flock and coop. I use food grade, freshwater DE all over the floor of my coop after I’ve cleaned out the litter, and then replace the fresh litter right over the top of the DE. I sprinkle it in all of the cracks and crevices of my coop and across doorways, windowsills and in corners where pests may gain access or lurk. I also sprinkle it in my chickens’ dust bath. Periodically, I cover the top of the sand and dirt in the bath and then I let the chickens work it into the sand. As the chickens roll, flop, and play in the dust bath, they cover themselves with the DE-infused sand and it helps to rid them of mites and other crawly things that live on chickens. I have absolutely no mites or other pests in my flock of 14.

Diatomaceous Earth Uses: Other Uses for Diatomaceous Earth

So what else can it be used for? DE works as a great natural pest control for garden and grounds. In your garden, DE can help to control pests when you sprinkle it around the bottoms of your plants. It works great! It can also be used to eliminate bedbugs, fleas, and ticks on household pets, and to control and eliminate cockroaches, earwigs, and other pests in your home. It should be cautioned though, to be sure not to sprinkle DE where honey bees congregate since they are crucial to our environment.

So there you have it! Now, where do you find it? Diatomaceous earth is sold widely in farm supply stores and feed stores. It comes in jars and bags and may vary in color from a greyish brown to snowy white, depending on what deposit it was mined from. Be sure to check the label to make certain that you have food grade DE and read the precautions on the label prior to applying it. Your coop, chickens, house, pets, and plants will be happy and pest free … and the best part is … all without chemicals.

Originally published in 2014 and regularly vetted for accuracy.

5 thoughts on “Diatomaceous Earth Uses in Chickens”
  1. I love your articles. But perhaps I missed the one one “Fowl Pox”. I have one chicken that is difficult to break from brooding and she now has it on her comb and face. I did a lot of reading, but what is the best way to treat it?
    Thank you – Linda

  2. I use DE regularly. One thing I do, instead of using insecticides on my pets I fill a small sock with DE, tie it, and then dust my dogs and cats in a few spots on their body. It’s been several years since I’ve seen a tick and never any fleas. I repeat about every 3-4 weeks or so.

  3. Worked great when I was traveling and had bed bugs I brought home. I use it for fleas in my yard because of neighborhood cats that wander around in my yard. I use food grade.

  4. Hi, first I love Backyard Poultry! I have learned so much this past year about raising our beautiful RIRs, 8 laying hens and 2 big boy protectors. Now forgive me if I have already commented about taking caution around the use of DE but didn’t see anyone mention how not to use it. It IS obviously a great asset for chickens’ coops and dirt-baths, but please don’t broadcast it in your gardens! It will kill any and all insects, including caterpillars like Monarch Butterflies, which btw only eat native milkweed, and not your tomatoes or any other plants;DE as you say sort of migrates in the air and soil. This has come up in several online discussions about how to control the bugs people don’t want in their pollinator gardens and hands down all have agreed once they understood what DE does that it is a no-no and a major risk just like using pesticides to any and all insects and is not to be used in this way. Thanks again! Best to all.

  5. The guy at the feed store recommended using one cup in five pounds of chicken feed as a deworming and worm preventative. It sounds like this may have been bad advice…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *