Taking care of chickens is a full-time job, and anything you can do or anything you can use to make that task easier is usually money well spent.
It turns out there is one product that can act as a supplement, a parasite preventative, and maybe even a dewormer.
I’m talking about diatomaceous earth, or DE. This stuff has been around for a very long time, and lots of chicken keepers swear by it but it does have something of a controversial reputation as a supplement and internal parasite eliminator.
So, sprinkling DE in the chicken coop is totally fine, but should you feed diatomaceous earth to your flock of chickens?
Yes, you can feed DE to your chickens as a dietary supplement. It has been proven to give chickens minerals that they need, improve digestion and even improve the quality of eggs inside and out. Its effectiveness as an internal dewormer is still up for debate, though.
However you might feel about it as a remedy for internal parasites, there is no debating that DE does actually helps chickens digest their food better while providing them with trace minerals that they need in their diet.
There have plenty of studies to back it up. You might even have DE around already as a delousing powder or flea preventative.
The stuff definitely comes in handy, and it won’t hurt your chickens as long as you mix it into their food correctly. Keep reading and we will tell you more.
What is Diatomaceous Earth?
DE is nothing more than the ground remains of tiny fossilized aquatic creatures called diatoms. Looking at it as a product, it appears as a light gray or off-white fine powder.
Where does diatomaceous earth come from?
Diatomaceous earth is not, as the name suggests, just soil. Since it is the fossilized remains of a sea creature, of a type that has built up on seabeds for ages, it is mined and brought up in bulk where it is ground up into powder.
What Does Diatomaceous Earth Do?
Diatomaceous earth appears as a fine powder, but it is highly abrasive on a small scale.
This means it is typically used as a dry insecticidal additive because these tiny particles tend to lacerate and puncture the exoskeletons and tissues of bugs and other small creatures, dehydrating and killing them.
Is Diatomaceous Earth All Natural?
Yes. Diatomaceous earth is a completely natural and naturally occurring material, though it requires processing into the form we typically use it as.
However, it should be noted that there are two common types of DE on the market: food-grade DE, which has no or minimal added materials, and filter-grade DE, which might have an excess of silica and other additives.
You only want to use all-natural, food-grade DE for your chickens, no matter what you are using it for!
How Can Diatomaceous Earth Benefit My Chickens?
Diatomaceous earth has several benefits for chickens when ingested in safe quantities.
The material itself contains critical trace minerals for chickens, and it can also improve their digestive health and the uptake of other nutrients. It has also been shown to improve the health of their eggs, both yolks, and shells.
Read more about each of these benefits below.
Diatomaceous earth contains trace minerals that are critical for chicken health, even though they don’t need much of any of them.
Iron oxide, silica, and alumina are foremost among them, but there are others besides. Diatomaceous earth also acts as dietary grit.
Diatomaceous earth in a chicken’s diet will help their digestive process, helping them to break down all food more easily and also boosting the absorption of nutrients present in the food, protein, vitamins, and minerals alike. This is especially important for birds that are sick or old.
Improved Egg Health
Multiple studies performed in the 20th century have shown that fortifying a chicken’s diet with diatomaceous earth will boost the amount of eggs they lay and also the quality of those eggs.
This is especially important since firm, properly formed egg shells are critical for egg viability and improved yolks are always a good thing, whether you are collecting eggs or just growing your flock.
Possible Reduction of Internal Worms
A possible benefit of eating DE for chickens is that it might reduce or kill off internal parasites, particularly intestinal worms.
There is very little scientific evidence from official channels to support this assertion, but a great many farmers and chicken keepers wear to an improvement in parasite egg counts after supplementing their flocks’ diets with DE.
In any case, diatomaceous earth does not harm chickens when administered correctly, so there is no reason not to in light of the benefits detailed above.
If it does, in fact, prove to help with internal parasites that will just be a bonus!
What Kind of Food Can I put Diatomaceous Earth in?
If you are going to administer diatomaceous earth to your chickens in their food, you should add it to factory-produced chicken pellets or other similar feed.
It is possible to feed DE to them through other whole foods, but the results probably won’t be as good.
How Much Diatomaceous Earth Do I Mix in My Flock’s Feed?
Most manufacturers of food-grade diatomaceous earth will have recommended proportions based on volume or weight of food on the package.
Lacking this information, it is generally wise to mix only about 2 to 3% DE by weight into the dry food you are giving your chickens.
Some manufacturers may recommend up to 5% DE by weight, but I and other chicken keepers think this is a little bit excessive.
Properly Mixing the Diatomaceous Earth is Important
Make sure you mix the DE with the food thoroughly by stirring it, turning it over, agitating it, and so forth. Do not just throw a large scoop of DE on top of the food and then give it to your chickens.
DE must be properly incorporated with the food for good results.
Add Oil to Improve the Adhesion of Diatomaceous Earth to Food
One top trick that was taught to me when I started mixing DE with the food of my chickens is to use just a little bit of food-grade oil with it in order to get the fine powder to stick to the food.
Fish oil and olive oil are good bets, but you can use seed oils or vegetable oil if you’re in a pinch.
Simply add the oil a little bit at a time to the previously mixed food and DE, and then stir it until it is lightly glazed. It does not need to be sopping wet!
How Regularly Should Your Flock Get Diatomaceous Earth?
You can administer diatomaceous earth to your chickens via their food as often as a vet recommends, or according to package instructions.
Lacking this information, you could administer it twice a week and two evenly spaced feedings, once per day on different days.
Bear in mind, if DE does work against internal parasites it will take time for the effects to start showing a noticeable difference in test results.
Is Diatomaceous Earth Harmful to Chickens?
It can be. DE is not harmful to chickens so long as you take care only to give it to them in the manner described above, and you take care to minimize airborne dust.
Even food-grade DE can be an inhalation hazard for chickens since it is abrasive.
If you prepare their food separately as described above and then bring it to them they shouldn’t have any issues whatsoever.
Is Diatomaceous Earth Harmful to You?
No, if you are cautious. DE can irritate skin with prolonged contact, and it is a dust hazard for you the same way as it is for chickens.
Wear gloves, protect skin from prolonged contact with high quantities and a dust mask is a good idea when pouring or stirring it until you have added oil to their food.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.