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Diatomaceous Earth Powder: What is it and how should you use it?

Summer is fast approaching which means one thing for hen keepers: red mite season is upon us!

Here we look at how Diatomaceous Earth powder can help you to keep your hens and their coop red mite free, as well as being a great addition to their daily dust bath.

How to tell if you have a red mite problem

Red mite, or to call them by their official name, Dermanyssus Gallinae, can live both in your hen house and on your hens themselves.

An easy way to tell if you have a red mite problem in your coop is to place a small square of white towelling material in the corner of your nest boxes or over the end of a perch.

Red mite will hide in the folds thinking that they cannot be seen and by the morning will have turned it a reddish brown colour.

So what do you do if you do have a red mite infestation? Diatomaceous Earth, or DE for short, can be used on animals and birds to treat against external parasites (lice, fleas, mites), and even internal parasites (worms). It’s one of the most popular items that we at the BHWT advise to combat red mite.

What is Diatomaceous Earth powder and how does it work?

Diatomaceous Earth is a 100% natural product, made from the fossilised remains of ancient shell creatures. These remains are turned into a powder containing 80-90% silica, which is found in everything from rocks to plants and even humans. However Diatomaceous Earth powder contains silica in a concentrated form which makes it unique. It is inert and safe to both humans and animals.

Diatomaceous Earth powder works as the mites crawl through the dust to feed on the hens at night. The microscopically sharp shards that make up Diatomaceous Earth scratch the mite’s waxy shell without which they cannot retain water and so dehydrate and die.

We advise wearing gloves and a dust mask when applying Diatomaceous Earth as in some cases it can be a skin irritant. It is also important to only use food grade DE powder in and around your hen house.

The benefits of Diatomaceous Earth powder

There are many benefits of including a tub of Diatomaceous Earth among your hen keeping essentials. Here are just a few:

  • No chemicals – Diatomaceous Earth is completely natural and contains no chemicals. This means it can be used outside and does not harm the environment.
  • Can be eaten by your chickens without causing them harm
  • Great product to use in dust baths all year round. Come winter or summer, Diatomaceous Earth is a great addition to your hen’s dust bath.

It is worth noting here that there have been claims Diatomaceous Earth powder can treat worms and internal parasites; however, there is no scientific evidence to back this up and so we advise administering a proper worming routine for your hens.


How to use Diatomaceous Earth

DE powder should be applied to the coop by spreading the powder in cracks, crevices and nest box areas where mites hide. Rub along perches and apply to the house floor after cleaning out.

DE powder can also be placed in a cat litter tray with some dry soil so your hens can self-treat themselves to a spa day and enjoy a dust bath.

We advise using Diatomaceous Earth powder as a preventative product, or as part of a mite control treatment to reduce mites and lice in your poultry.

Click here to buy Diatomaceous Earth Powder from our online shop and please call our Hen Helpline on 01884 860084 if you require more guidance on eradicating red mite from your hen house.

Further sources of information regarding Diatomaceous Earth:

Bunch, T. R.; Bond, C.; Buhl, K.; Stone, D. 2013. Diatomaceous Earth General Fact Sheet; National Pesticide Information Center, Oregon State University Extension Services

Does diatomaceous earth (DE) cause mortality on Apis mellifera and Bombus terrestris?

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