The Wonders of Diatomaceous Earth

Photo of Kassandra Smith

Kassandra Smith

Senior Editor • Backyard Chicken Coops

Last Updated: 23 July 2020

Diatomaceous Earth is an all-natural medicinal marvel. It’s healthy dust! Food grade Diatomaceous Earth or DE is a jack of all trades-its uses run the gamut from house and garden pest control to pet and farm animal feed additives. Who knew dust could be so helpful!

Hamburg chicken in coop with diatomaceous earth on ground

Diatomaceous Earth is…

Diatomaceous Earth is basically composed of diatoms or microscopic algae plants living near the surface of oceans, lakes and other bodies of water. Over a period of many, many years, they break down or fossilize, and settle on the bottom of the water mixing in with other sediment. This breakdown results in the mineral, silica, which is combined with a variety of trace minerals and made into Diatomaceous Earth.  

Diatomaceous Earth for Chickens

Pet, Poultry and Livestock Food Additive

Add a little DE to your pet, poultry and livestock food bowls and watch their health transform. Yes, this healthy dust is actually good for their bodies. Diatomaceous earth contains the all-important mineral, silica, as well as, other beneficial trace minerals such as calcium, manganese, and copper that aid in bodily processes and improve overall health. Diatomaceous Earth, as a superhero strength food additive, is eggs-traordinarily beneficial:

  • Improves metabolism
  • Improves feed conversion
  • Helps prevent diarrhea by eliminating viruses and bacteria and thickens stool
  • Improves the quality of feathers, coats and hooves
  • Improves milk production in dairy cows
  • Helps eliminate the desire to lick and eat animal waste, soil and rock particles
  • Helps to eliminate worms and internal parasites
  • Improves bone growth and strength
  • Strengthens tendons and ligaments
  • Aids the healing of wounds
  • Improves skin quality
  • Reduces pain and inflammation in the joints of older animals
  • Improves quality of life; thus, resulting is less animal deaths
  • Improves appetite and weight gain in poultry
  • Improves the bone mineralization process in young chicks
  • Improves egg production in laying hens-hens fed DE in their feed lay more larger, stronger shelled eggs

Follow these guidelines for adding DE to your animals feed:

For Chickens and Poultry

  • DE should make up 2% of the total feed volume (per feed bag)

For Kittens and Cats

  • Feed kittens (who are no longer nursing and weigh 1-3 kg.) ½ teaspoon DE daily
  • Feed adult cats 1 tsp. DE daily

For Puppies and Dogs

  • Feed puppies 1 tsp. DE daily
  • Feed adult dogs (up to 23 kg.) 1 tsp. DE daily
  • Feed adult dogs (23.1 kg. – 45 kg.) 1 tbsp. DE daily
  • Feed adult dogs (45.1 kg. and up) 1-2 tbsp. DE daily

For Horses

  • Add 1 cup DE to feed daily

For Calves and Cows

  • Calves-Add 56 g. DE to feed daily
  • Adult Cows-Add 28 g. DE to feed daily

For Goats and Sheep

  • DE should make up 1% of feed daily

For Pigs

  • DE should make up 2% of feed daily

Diatomaceous earth for chickens in scoop

A Healthy Boost for Human Health

More and more health conscious people are adding Diatomaceous Earth to their own diets for improved health. So what’s the scoop? Simply put, adding a dose of DE to your diet on a regular basis leads to better overall health and helps to prevent future health problems. Let’s take a look at the 3 main ways DE works in your body:

  • As DE travels through your digestive system, it draws in all the bad stuff such as viruses and bacteria, fungi, internal parasites, and chemical residue from drugs and pesticides; thus, cleansing your system and allowing for better nutrient absorption.
  • The hardness property of DE enables its particles to scrape away food and mucus residue from the walls of your intestines for the ultimate “cleanse”.
  • Essential mineral, silica, is absorbed into your bloodstream and helps to rid your blood of unhealthy fats, playing a key role in a multitude of other healthy improvements:
    • Helps to lower high blood pressure and high cholesterol
    • Stimulates collagen development which in turn improves the quality of your skin, as well as, joint health, metabolism and digestion.
    • Strengthens hair, nails, tooth enamel and gums
    • Stimulates hair growth
    • Helps lessen the severity of menopause symptoms
    • Aids healing of hemorrhoids
    • Promotes healing of skin wounds, abrasions, burns and rashes
    • Helps regulate bowel movements

Directions and dosage

First and foremost, only take FOOD GRADE DE!  It’s best to take DE prior to eating.  Start with a teaspoon of DE and mix it into water, juice, your morning smoothie or foods such as yogurt, applesauce, scrambled eggs or oatmeal. As your body gets used to the healing effects of DE, feel free to increase your dose to up to 1 -2 tablespoons per day.

Animal Pest Control

Arm your pets with the best armor-DE. Diatomaceous Earth is an A+ defensive tactic for keeping annoying parasites away. Simply sprinkle and massage. Applying DE onto your cat, dog, poultry or livestock can indeed keep itchy scratchy pests away. Yay! It’s one thing for your beloved pets to endure the incessant itchiness that comes from fleas, ticks, and lice, but it’s quite another thing altogether when your beloved pets scamper indoors and transport those unwelcome guests inside and onto your furniture and carpets.

Sprinkle some DE directly onto your pets’ bed or bedding and pests will vacate the premises. Diatomaceous Earth also works the same way in your chooks’ nesting boxes, coop floor, livestock stalls and barn.

In the Home Pest Repellent, Odor Control and More

Wave farewell to bothersome creepy crawly house pests forever. DE works well in your home to combat bug infestations such as ants, cockroaches, bedbugs and those pesky fleas who’ve hitched a free ride inside on your dog or cat.

Basically, you will want to dust any access areas around your home where you notice any unwanted pests entering and traveling-windowsills, doorways, and along baseboards. Allow a few days to a week for the DE to capture its prey, then vacuum up the debris. Repeat as necessary.

DE also works wonders as an odor eater and cleanser:

  • Smelly cat litter boxes and foul garbage odors will be a thing of the past.
  • Porcelain friendly DE can also help scrub away stubborn toilet bowl stains.
  • Mix a little DE with vinegar or lemon juice and make your silver shine or scrub away stains all over the house.
  • Add a sprinkle of DE to your toothpaste, yes, your toothpaste, for amazingly clean teeth.

In the Garden

Your garden will bloom and thrive under the protection of superhero garden pest slayer, DE. Diatomaceous Earth will be your garden’s best friend.  Simply, sprinkle DE on the ground in a circle around plants. Much like a moat for a castle, this dusty ring around your plants keeps destructive bug invaders away. You can also sprinkle DE on the stems and leaves of damp plants, both topsides and undersides, being careful not to dust flowers. The all- important pollinators -- bees -- tend to pass by flowers treated with DE.

Are you plagued by flies swarming in and around your manure pile and compost heap? Well, fret and swat no more. Add a couple cups of DE, mix it in and flies will flee for their lives.

Rain water unfortunately dilutes the effects of DE in the garden and on any outdoor animals, so you’ll need to reapply following any rain storm or a particularly wet season.

Safety Precautions for Using Diatomaceous Earth

Now, while DE is organic, all natural and non-toxic, it is rather dusty. And, unfortunately, too much DE dust can be an unhealthy environment for your respiratory system, especially the fragile and complex respiratory system of your chooks. So, take precautions. When applying DE in confined areas such as the chicken coop, barn stalls and other out buildings, always wear a mask, move your chooks, other poultry and livestock out to their run and pastures and make sure there is proper ventilation prior to dusting.

A word of caution though if you use the deep litter bedding system in your chicken coop-it’s best not to add DE to this type of bedding. The deep litter system’s main function is to attract good micro-organisms. These microbes work to break down chicken waste by consuming all the bad bacteria so the good bacteria can thrive in the bedding, so adding DE to the bedding would be counter-productive.

Better Health + No Bugs = Happiness

No truer words were ever spoken. Happiness is a healthy body and pest free pets, home and garden. So put out the welcome mat and say hello to happiness, because this dusty wonder is always welcome. Your chooks will be pest free and flap-happy with glee living in a wonderfully crafted chicken coop that is perfectly ventilated for optimal health. Diatomaceous Earth is the one and only healthy dust. Happy dusting!

All year-round, we all want to do an eggcellent job when caring for our feathered friends. It's essential that you've got the right expertise you need to raise happy, healthy chooks. Did you know 67% of chicken keepers surveyed experienced a chicken health or behaviour issue in the first 12 months that they didn’t know how to handle?

Cluckily, Chickenpedia have created a brilliant Chicken Healthcare Course that includes everything you need, including what to look for in an unhealthy chicken and how to support your egg-laying hens to flourish. I highly recommend their beginner-friendly courses to all my readers!

You can also prepare for the challenges each season brings thanks to their Weatherproof Chickens course. It is a complete guide of everything you need to keep healthy chickens through the seasons (which is more than you think!) with a great set of checklists and downloads to keep. Dangerous conditions including dehydration and frostbite can be avoided with the correct information and actions. Whatever the weather, this course will help you keep your chickens happy and healthy!

Check out Chickenpedia today. As a member, you will also get access to the ALL of their chicken courses!

Sources and further reading