All about Diatomaceous Earth, Does it Live Up to the Hype?

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Diatomaceous Earth has been studied as a mite prevention in chickens, but just how good is at preventing pests? Here’s the scoop on DE and how it works.

What is it Made of?

DE is made of the fossilized remains of aquatic animals called diatoms. The diatoms contain silica, which has been studied to help make stronger bones and better overall health in humans, and in chickens it’s been studied as a natural de-wormer. It’s also been studied that chickens fed a high silica diet have better bone re-mineralzation, and laid larger and better eggs due to the silica. The type of silica to avoid is the crystalline silicon dioxide, which if exposed for a long time in long periods of time, can cause cancers, but you’d have to be exposed to it all day everyday for years to perhaps experience any side effects. The food-grade DE should contain amorphous silica, not the crystalline silica. Amorphous silica is what happens when the DE is left in its natural state, and crystaline silica is what happens when DE is superheated. Pool-grade DE, which is used as a filter and shouldn’t . Food-grade DE is found in a lot of bug repellents, skin and teeth care products, and medicines.

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Sprinkling DE under your chickens bedding, around the feeders, dust bath area and run will help control parasites.

What does it do?

DE has been said to be an all natural insect repellant and an internal parasite controller, but does it do what it’s supposed to do? Here’s the down and dirty:

  • “Sprinkling DE where your chickens fluff will prevent a parasite overload”: I’m an avid believer in this and I sprinkle DE in my run, under my chickens bedding, and where they fluff. The DE drys out the oils and fats in bugs, and after a long enough exposure, the bugs will die and stay away, keeping your chickens mite and parasite free.
  • “DE in your chicken’s feed will prevent internal parasites”: I do this as well, though I’m not sure how good it actually is at preventing internal parasites as a chicken’s saliva will break down the insect repellent properties before it can do it’s job, but I still add it as an extra boost as it won’t do any harm.
  • “DE can treat mites and parasites”: I’ve never had a case of mites or any parasites, so I’m not sure how well this would work. If it could prevent mites, surely it could help with a treatment? No harm in trying!
  • “DE shouldn’t be used as it causes respiratory issues”: I find this information to be false. When sprinkling DE, keep your chickens away from the dust as it MAY cause issues, but issues would arise from all day everyday exposure to the dust for years, so most likely your chickens won’t live long enough to really experience any issues. I’ve been using DE awhile and I’ve had no issues with respiratory illness.

In summary, I think DE is perfectly safe to use on chickens, and I recommend it. Whatever risk there is far outweighed by the good benefits the DE has for your chickens. Be sure, though, that when buying your DE it’s the food grade kind, not pool grade! Your local Tractor Supply or feed store should carry DE, so just check which kind it is. I hope this helped you make a choice on whether you want to use DE, and I hope that if you chose to it does the best for your flock!

Dancing with Chickens 

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