Diatomaceous earth is an incredible resource for any homesteader. Here are some ways to use it around your chickens.
Is Diatomaceous earth safe to use around chickens?
Yes, diatomaceous earth is safe to use around chickens! There is a bit of debate around this topic, though. So in this post, we’re going to go through the pros and cons. We will also cover –
What is Diatomaceous earth?
Diatomaceous earth, or DE, is finely crushed, fossilized remains of aquatic animals called diatoms. Their skeletons are made of silica and accumulated in places like rivers, streams, or lakes. Today, we mine those areas of accumulation. What is mined is crushed and becomes a powder. But don’t be fooled – diatomaceous earth is an incredible pest control method because those crushed skeletons turn into microscopic razor blades. This is why you’ll find warning labels on diatomaceous earth – it’s an irritant if inhaled or ingested.
Today, DE is used in many a chemical pesticide. When using food grade DE, it’s mixed with water because it contains essential minerals, like copper, manganese, calcium, and iron. From my research, there’s no assumed risk to your digestive system. Whatever isn’t consumed comes out in your urine. (Should you decide to consume food grade DE, you should do so after doing your own research. Don’t consume something you know you are allergic to.)
Use of diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth is used for a wide variety of reasons, but pest control is probably the most well-known. Gardeners have success with using it around plants, both edible and not edible. Farmers have had success using it around animals of all sizes, from chickens to cattle. And in small doses, it’s even consumed for health benefits.
We use diatomaceous earth as a pest control method for our chickens. Chickens attract quite a variety of pests. The list of insects is almost unending – mites, crickets, ants, lice, mealworms, ticks, flies. Spiders and cockroaches may also make the list. Larger pests may include snakes and mice or rats. Snakes are usually attracted to chicken eggs and fend off pests like mice. There are quite a few homesteading stories about chickens developing a mutual relationship with snakes for that purpose. Mice or rats are usually attracted to chicken feed and may sometimes snag an egg or two.
Because the pests that can impact our chickens well being is so high, we mix it into their dust baths and sprinkle it in their coop every time we change their bedding. It’s also a great idea to sprinkle it into nesting boxes.
We prefer food-grade DE for all of these external parasites. If you’re concerned about internal parasites, you could easily mix in a small portion of it into their feed. There are some who use food-grade DE as a natural dewormer. Because we haven’t done that, I’m unable to confirm its success with confidence.
A little goes a long way! It doesn’t take much DE to make an impact. Ever the precise measurement (that’s a joke) we mix probably a little over two cups of diatomaceous earth to at least 16 cups worth of potting soil and sand. Our dust bath recipe looks a bit like this –
– 16 cups of potting soil
– 16 cups of playground sand
– 2 cups of diatomaceous earth
When working with diatomaceous earth, it may be wise to use a face mask.
Benefits of diatomaceous earth
We want to live a life that supports our bodies as close to the way God intended them to function. Because food grade DE is considered a natural powder, that’s a great way to accomplish that goal! I love using natural materials wherever I can.
Diatomaceous Earth also has a proven track record of defending against and killing things like insect pests and chicken mites. It’s proven itself as an effective treatment in a variety of settings, like in a garden or even around cattle. And as a fine powder, application is easy.
I also love that you don’t need much diatomaceous earth for it to be effective. As a micro homesteader, I don’t have the land to raise anything bigger than a chicken. But as a stay-at-home mom, I don’t have the funds to purchase any fancy equipment, either! So I’m always looking for cost-effective, space-saving ways to homestead. Diatomaceous earth lets me do that! In fact, one, 10-pound bag lasts my little homestead over a year! That’s incredible! So long as we store it properly and keep it away from moist areas, it will continue to be effective.
Since diatomaceous earth is considered a natural way to deal with pests, I’m also that much more comfortable with using it around my children and animals.
Cons of diatomaceous earth
There are safety concerns surrounding diatomaceous earth because it’s been known to cause health issues. In humans, you will cough if diatomaceous earth is inhaled into your lungs. It’s also a known irritant to nasal passages and breathing ways. So if you don’t wear a face mask and you inhale DE, expect respiratory problems. (In fact, it’s way large-scale pest providers don’t solely use diatomaceous earth! They would be exposed to such large quantities they say it’s not worth the risk.)
Chickens, and other animals, aren’t immune to the same respiratory problems. Even when mixed into chickens’ feed, you’re taking a risk of exposing them to a known irritant. And we know how precious their respiratory systems are – I talk more about that in this post.
Diatomaceous earth must also stay dry to be effective. Our flock is backyard chickens. And we largely use diatomaceous earth in our chickens’ dust bath. We tend to have to frequently reapply diatomaceous earth because it never stays dry under the circumstances we’re using it. If you’re looking for a solution that will provide long-term results, diatomaceous earth may not be effective for a long period of time.
Diatomaceous earth also takes time. So if you’re dealing with severe infestations, it may not be a conventional solution. But if it’s so effective, how can it take so much time? In my research, diatomaceous earth is effective so long as it makes direct contact. Large amounts or wide areas of concern may encourage you to turn your attention to other insect control methods.
So is it a useful tool?
I would recommend any chicken owners add diatomaceous earth to their arsenal. If you aren’t comfortable using it in your chickens’ dust bath, it works great as a pest control method for a chicken coop. Or even your home! Just remember – where a dust mask when handling it and keep it out of your eyes.
Links and helpful resources
Here are links to the products we use on the homestead! As a member of the Amazon Affiliates program, I make a commission for recommending products to you – at no extra cost to you!
Kiddie Pool for your chicks – NOTE: This is intended for dogs.
Are you raising chickens? Here are links to some of my favorite products!
- This style of waterer works great for chicks
- I recommend this style of feeder for chicks
- A brooder lamp like this one has a clamp and the watts you need to keep those chicks warm!
- Don’t forget the bulbs for your lamp!
- Transporting small birds? This dog carrier makes a great travel solution.
- For injured birds, I recommend a care spray like this one. Keep it on hand!
- Did you know chickens need electrolytes, too? These electrolytes are what we give our birds when there’s a cold snap and they aren’t taking it well. Again – keep these on hand!
- Need a place to put your equipment in the off-season? We use industrial totes like these.
Want to homestead but you don’t know where to start?
My ebook “Making a Micro Homestead” is the perfect place to start building your homestead! I created this as a resource for families who live in city limits but want to grow and source their own food. “Making a Micro Homestead” is complete with growth guides and alternative ways to homestead. Because wouldn’t you know – you don’t need livestock or land to start a homestead! You can start by making a loaf of sourdough bread or rendering your own lard. Begin developing these skills so when you do move on land, you have the time you need to focus on tending to animals or land!
That’s not the only thing I’ve made…
Did you know I also make my own beauty products? Check out my shop page so you don’t miss the next launch! Have you checked out my Instagram page? I also do giveaways of my products there!
If you’re looking for more DIY inspiration, check out @thelearningcreates. There, I talk about DIY projects, small business, and marketing. I share all the tips and tricks I’ve learned from my 10 years in journalism and marketing!
I love getting to know fellow homesteaders on Facebook and Instagram. I also have a ton of resources here on the blog! If you need help with chickens or recipes for a quick, weeknight meal, check out these blog posts!
Our chicken dust bath recipe
- 2 c Diatomaceous Earth
- 16 c Potting Soil
- 16 c Playground Sand
- In a container with low walls, combine half of your mixture (1 c DE, 8 cups potting soil, 8 cups playground sand) and mix until fully combined.
- Add remaining ingredients and mix until fully combined.
- Allow chickens to enjoy freely.
- When mixture becomes wet, change.
- If mixture stays dry, replace every two to three months.
Replacement depends on how often your chickens bathe themselves and how many chickens you have.