Today we welcome Beth from DiatomaceousEarth.com as a guest! She’s written a fabulous 7 point list of the various ways we can effectively use diatomaceous earth on the homestead. What’s diatomaceous earth? Read on!
7 Ways to Use Diatomaceous Earth on the Homestead
Hello, my name is Beth, and I’m a chronic DE user. DE, short for diatomaceous earth, is a versatile tool for the homestead. If you’ve never heard of it before, then buckle up because we’ve got lots of information for you. If you’re well-versed in DE already, then just jump down to the section that looks the most interesting/helpful to you.
What is Diatomaceous Earth?
DE is the fossilized remains of diatoms (phytoplankton) that has accumulated over thousands of years at the bottom of bodies of water. It’s a soft, white powder that bears a strong resemblance to flour. At some point, people started using DE for all kinds of reasons: as an anti-caking agent, deodorizer, homemade cleaner, health supplement, and a natural pesticide.
Treat Your Chicken Coop to Get Rid of Mites and Lice
Diatomaceous earth is topic you’ll come across sooner rather than later in the chicken community. It’s good to research its benefits so you can decide whether to use it in your coop.
Before you apply DE, keep in mind that the sanitation and cleanliness of your coop is one of the keys to mite and lice control. Not to mention chickens that regularly take dust baths usually keep the mites and lice at bay. Mites spread rapidly when one member of the flock is infected. These mites are brought in by wild birds, rodents, and on your shoes or clothes. They have a short life cycle, but mites can lay up to 100,000 eggs in a lifetime.
Some bugs are friendly, but these pests aren’t. Chicken mites and lice can cause anemia, damaged feathers, poor egg production, and weight problems if left untreated. Young birds are at risk of dying. Here are some signs that your chickens have an infestation:
- Excessive preening or biting at feathers
- Decreased activity
- A pale comb
- Weight loss or change in appetite
- Reduced egg production
- Overall sick appearance
Apply DE to the coop:
Clean out the old bedding and then dust the floor, nesting boxes, and roosts. Then add your new bedding. The nice thing about diatomaceous earth is it repels as well. You can add some DE to the dust bath so the chickens are regularly protecting themselves as they dust. In between cleanings, it’s good to re-apply once in a while.
—>>>Read Backyard Chickens 101 to answer other chicken questions!<<<—
Add Diatomaceous Earth to Chicken Feed
Most chickens have had internal worms, with coccidia being the most common internal parasite. Some people who have given their chickens diatomaceous earth have found a decrease in internal worms. Others give DE to their chickens because of the trace minerals it contains and the potential benefits of silica (which comprises 85 percent of DE). If you want to feed your chickens DE, then the ratio is up to 2 percent of their feed. (For example, one pound of DE for 50 pounds of feed.)
There are many other natural de-wormers. Peppermint is a creeper plant that you might already have in your coop. It has a terrific scent, and chickens can munch on it around the coop. Wormwood (aptly named) is thought to have worm-fighting properties. Chickens can eat the leaves or flowers off this medium-sized bush.
—>>>Read Growing Unusual Herbs to answer other herbal questions!<<<—
Give Pets a Healthy Dose of DE
Most of the evidence we have about this is from customer testimonials. Many people who give their pets a daily amount of DE have found their pets’ have an improved coat, appetite, metabolism, and digestion.
Here are the recommended amounts to feed your pets:
- Kittens: ½ tsp
- Cats: 1 tsp.
- Puppies & Small Dogs: ½ tsp
- Dog under 50 pounds: 1 tsp
- Dog over 50 pounds: 1 tbsp
- Dog over 100 pounds: 2 tbsp
Get Rid of Fleas on Pets
You can apply diatomaceous earth directly to your pet to exterminate fleas. To do this, start at the base of the tail and push the fur backwards to expose the skin, then apply DE directly to the skin. Repeat this process moving slowly towards the head. Avoid putting diatomaceous earth on your pet’s face to avoid irritation.
Be sure to dust your house at the same time you’re treating your pet. As your pet walks around your home, fleas, eggs, and larvae fall off. Wash pet bedding in hot water and then dry it on high heat. Afterwards, vacuum your home be sure to vacuum your pet’s usual hangouts. Repeat this process of treating your pet and home for at least a month. This breaks the flea life cycle since diatomaceous earth only kills the adult fleas.
—>>>For further reading: Do You Need Livestock Guard Dogs<<<—
Protect Against Garden Pests with Diatomaceous Earth
While the type of garden pests vary between regions, it’s a universal struggle among gardeners. Even when a gardener employs good practices (weeding, handpicking, healthy soil, interplanting), garden pests can be overwhelming. Since DE doesn’t discern between insects, use diatomaceous earth in response to a heavy infestation.
With that said, let’s talk about the bees. We’re concerned about the bees, and we want to help them out (as well as some other pollinators). The good news is DE doesn’t stick very well to bees because of the hairs on their bodies. Same with wasps, even though the hair is a little sparser on them.
Another way to protect our pollinators is changing up the times you apply DE. The best times are in the early morning or late evening when the bees are less active. When you apply diatomaceous earth, be sure to avoid any blossoms or flowers.
Back to the insects you don’t want in your garden. Sometimes if a plant is too far gone, it’s best to just pull it out. To save the plants that have minor damage, you do one of two application methods. This depends on if the insects demolishing your garden are crawling or flying.
Let’s say you have slugs in your garden, and they’ve completely taken over. In addition to your garden maintenance, you can protect at risk plants by creating a ring of DE around those plants. This works as a repellent as well. If the rain washes away the DE then you need to re-apply it.
This scenario encompasses more insects. Try to limit application to at risk plants so you don’t accidentally harm any beneficial insects. Start by lightly watering your plants. Then start dusting your plants with diatomaceous earth. Be sure to get underneath the leaves as well. Re-apply if the DE gets washed away by rain or watering.
Side note: Sometimes people ask us if DE can repel snakes. To put it simply, DE doesn’t repel or harm snakes. For them, it would be the same as moving through sand. If you have dangerous snakes in your area, I can see why you would want to repel them; however, snakes are natural predators of other pests we’re not too fond of, so they serve their purpose. If you’re a gardener, then you should be especially happy when a snake pays a visit. For dangerous snakes visiting your home it’s best to call animal control.
Clean and Polish Your Home
Add a few drops of vinegar and vegetable oil into some DE. Then add a small squirt of dish soap. Mix together until the whole mixture is creamy. Use this anywhere in the home. Its best use is to polish faucets, utensils, and silverware.
If you’re looking for a sanitizer, mix together equal parts hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. This solution is strong enough to kill bacteria like salmonella, shigella, and e-coli.
Protect Your Food Storage with DE
Diatomaceous earth is used in agriculture to store grain and animal feed since it’s approved by the USDA as an anti-caking agent. You can add DE to grains, legumes, rice, beans, corn, and other foods to keep it dry and prevent clumping, germinating, or molding. You definitely want a natural pesticide to protect your food. Here are a few steps on how to layer diatomaceous earth in your food:
The ratio is adding 2 percent of the amount of food you’re adding DE to. This equals out to one cup of DE to 50 pounds of DE or one teaspoon of DE to every pound of grain.
- You’ll want to maximize the coverage of DE. Here is an example. If you had a 10 pound container, start by adding about three pounds of food at the bottom. Then add three teaspoons of DE. Repeat this process until the container is filled.
- Now mix together with a plastic spoon or other stirring device. If you have a lid, put it on the container and give it a shake. Then seal the container. Do this to the rest of your food that is going in long-term storage.
About the author: Beth Haymond has worked at DiatomaceousEarth.com for the past two years. During this time, she has become an expert in all things diatomaceous earth.
Thank you, Beth for the great lesson in DE! Christmas is coming and all, so maybe you might want to check out that link.
*DiatomaceousEarth.com is not an affiliate of mine; I just think DE is cool and thought you would, too!