Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a popular natural, non-toxic substance to reduce parasite load on chickens. Chicken owners who use DE in coops also report that chickens lay larger eggs with more yolk. Sometimes referred to as “d earth,” this white powder kills bugs, mites, lice, and fleas without poison.
But can you use diatomaceous earth for chickens without any side effects? Is there scientific backing for using this natural substance safely on chickens and other poultry birds?
This article is a complete guide to using diatomaceous earth for chickens. In addition, you will find out how to use DE to increase egg production and learn about its additional benefits.
What is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth is the fossilized remains of tiny organisms called diatoms. This fossilized mineral is ground into a grayish-white powder. Up close, the fine powder has razor-sharp edges. This mechanical pesticide damages the exoskeletons of mites, fleas, bugs, ticks, and lice, causing them to dry out.
For DE to work as a non-toxic pesticide, it must be kept dry.
According to the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC), DE is not poisonous. Studies show that diatomaceous earth is not toxic to wildlife. Additionally, it is unlikely to harm birds, fish, or other animals.
There are various grades of diatomaceous earth to use. If you want to use it on chickens, then look for food-grade diatomaceous earth. This is the safest option to rid your poultry and chicken coop of parasites.
Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth for Chickens
When using DE, the benefits for backyard chickens are that you can significantly reduce the need for using a chemical parasite treatment. When using DE for parasites, it’s necessary to use it as a preventative control. You can dust chicken coops, use it in dust baths, or sprinkle it in nesting boxes.
For example, say you have free-range organic laying hens. In that case, you can use DE safely for parasite control. You are safe in the knowledge that you are not using any chemicals, and there is no risk of contamination to the food chain.
How Will Diatomaceous Earth Help My Chickens — What Science Says
Many chicken keepers say that their hens are larger, healthier, and lay more eggs when they regularly use DE. But is there scientific evidence to back up these claims?
Diatomaceous Earth helps Control Internal Parasites
One study examined the effect of supplementing egg-laying hens’ diets with 2 percent diatomaceous earth. Researchers found that hens fed with a diet containing DE had fewer internal parasites. Also, the diatomaceous earth-fed hens laid bigger eggs that contained more albumen and yolk. The scientists concluded that DE could benefit the “production of organically raised, free-range layer hens.”
DE is an External Parasite Treatment
Research into the effect of diatomaceous earth on parasite load found that it reduces external parasites. For example, dusting chickens, coops, nesting boxes, and roosts with DE can help cut down numbers of external parasites. In addition, applying “d earth” to hens reduces infestations of northern fowl mites in laying hens.
Another scientific study found that diatomaceous earth can also help control populations of poultry red mites. This means that using DE has the potential to reduce the number of infected birds in a flock.
Diet containing diatomaceous earth has physical benefits for chickens
Adding DE to your chicken feed can result in many health benefits to chickens. A 2019 study found that food-grade DE is safe for adding to animal feed.
For example, supplementing the diet with DE resulted in heavier chickens. But, compared to chickens that weren’t fed DE supplements, the weight of internal organs was similar. Also, DE reduces toxin levels in chickens. Additional benefits of DE were thicker legs, bigger combs, and improved growth performance.
What Are the Effects of Diatomaceous Earth on Laying Hens?
Some of the main safety concern centers around silica or crystalline silicon dioxide in DE products. But, food-grade DE contains very little silica and always less than the recommended 2 percent crystalline silica.
Although some websites say that diatomaceous earth particles can cause respiratory issues, no studies support those claims.
Because DE is a fine abrasive powder, it’s a good idea to take some precautions. So, when applying the talc-like powder, use a dust mask and wear protective gloves.
Where Do I Use DE in a Chicken Coop?
If you have backyard chickens, there are many ways to use this cheap parasite control powder. Sprinkling food grade in the coop, providing a dust bath, or putting a layer of DE in nesting boxes are excellent ways for your chicks to enjoy the health benefits of diatomaceous earth.
Before using DE for the first time, it’s a good idea to clean out the coop. Remove all bedding and scrub the inside, making sure you get into the nooks and crannies. After the coop is dry, you can start applying diatomaceous earth.
The next step is to create a powder duster to sprinkle the food-grade DE. To do this, get a plastic bottle and pierce several holes in the cap. Next, carefully fill the bottle with diatomaceous earth and then puff the dust around the inside of the chicken coop.
Many backyard chicken keepers dust the coop floors with diatomaceous earth to kill lice and mites and keep infestations to a minimum. Use the puffer to apply the powder to doorways, crevices, and wherever pests and mites may lurk.
Use diatomaceous earth in nest boxes to reduce parasite load. Take two spoons of DE and sprinkle around the edges and in the corners of nest boxes.
You can also apply DE directly to broody hens. All you need to do is dust the powder under their back feathers. You can also sprinkle the fine powder around brooding boxes to keep them mite-free.
Additional benefits from using DE in a backyard chicken coop or chicken feed include adding minerals to your chickens’ diet and a cleaner coop because it absorbs odors.
How to Add Diatomaceous Earth to Chicken Feed
Studies have shown that adding DE to a chicken’s diet has many health benefits. DE contains trace minerals essential for healthy bones. Additionally, there is some evidence that DE in the digestive tract helps to reduce parasite load internally.
In experiments, supplementing diets with 2 percent DE of the total feed was effective in providing benefits to chickens.
How to Make Baths for Chickens with Diatomaceous Earth
One of the best ways for chickens to benefit from diatomaceous earth is by adding the powder to a dust bath. Chickens use dust bathing to clean feathers and get rid of bad parasites. Adding DE to the soil or sand adds a layer of protection in preventing parasites.
To help chickens get rid of body lice, add a good amount of diatomaceous earth to their bathing area. Then, as the chicks roll in the dry sandy bath, they remove parasites from their feathers and body. It’s good to remember to replenish the diatomaceous earth after it’s rained; otherwise, it won’t be effective.
Diatomaceous Earth Benefits to Chickens
Diatomaceous earth is an ancient substance that’s good for for modern organic farming methods. DE has an array of benefits for chicken owners. It is non-toxic and safe to use, so it can help you reduce the number of chemicals and pesticides you need to keep chickens healthy. “D earth” is an excellent choice for people using organic methods to raise and care for chickens without chemicals.