You have no doubt heard of diatomaceous earth to treat lice and other pests in chickens. If you are curious about what this earth is and how it works, just read the following article. Once you try it, you won’t be able to do without it.
What is diatomaceous earth?
Diatomaceous earth is a product, all that there is more natural, considered as an ecological product.
Diatoms are microscopic algae unicellular with a siliceous skeleton. These algae thrive in all humid environments, as soon as they find enough light there. They can therefore live in fresh water as well as in a marine environment, but also in moist soil.
Diatomaceous earth results from the deposit of their skeleton after they die. Their accumulation during different geological periods formed a rock of siliceous nature, very light, very porous (containing between 50 and 70% water) and friable. From a mineralogical point of view, it is linked to the opal family.
The color of this earth is clear, ranging from white to blue-green through gray. These different shades result from the presence or absence of other bodies such as organic matter or clay, but also from the degree of humidity of the earth. This is reflected commercially by different origins, an extraction site corresponding to an identified color. Gray diatomaceous earth contains, for example, volcanic ash. But the properties remain basically the same, even if some claim the opposite.
On the other hand, there is two types of distinct diatomaceous earth, depending on whether or not it has undergone transformation. Diatomaceous earth can be sold as is, without processing. But it can also be calcined at 900 ° C, an operation which crystallizes silica. In this case, it becomes very irritating and unfit for consumption. It is then marketed for the filtration of swimming pools.
Diatomaceous earth as a treatment for chicken lice
After grinding, the diatomaceous earth looks like talc. It has great absorption properties, which goes up to 150% of its weight in water. It is well known to Anglo-Saxon gardeners (in the United States and England) who use it as a biological insecticide against caterpillars, slugs, aphids, boxwood moth and many other insects. It is therefore also effective against hen lice because – and this is its drawback – it is hostile to all insects, whether they are harmful or not. If you put it in the garden, it will also kill ladybugs and other garden helpers. It should therefore be used sparingly, so targeted and controlled, otherwise you risk considerably harming the nature that thrives in your garden.
How does diatomaceous earth work on insects?
The hardness of silica is around 6 and 7 on the Mohs scale which has 10 steps, 10 being the hardness of diamond. The structure of diatomaceous earth is therefore abrasive. But as it is very thin, it allows copper, stainless steel or silverware to shine without any trace of scratches visible to the naked eye.
Its fineness means that it can easily be ingested by insects. Its action then takes place in the digestive tract by mechanical action: the lesions it causes are fatal. It can also have external use because on the scale of insects, walking on this earth is the equivalent of walking on broken glass for us. It is therefore able to pierce the shells and cause a loss of bodily fluids in insects which die within a few days. In addition, the absorbent properties of diatomaceous earth promote the process of dehydration of insects because the body will seek to balance the water content of the cells: it is then the entire functioning of the insect’s organism that is finds it disturbed. You can’t find a more formidable weapon!
How to use diatomaceous earth to eliminate lice from chickens
You will understand: if we are talking about chicken lice in this article, diatomaceous earth is effective in fighting all parasites of the hen, including fleas and mites.
When purchasing diatomaceous earth, therefore, you should be especially careful that you are purchasing the one that is food grade. If this is the case, this land, which is harmful to insects, has no toxicity on our domestic animals.
Then, you just have to sprinkle the plumage of your poultry, taking care to protect their eyes which you risk to irritate. Then you rub the hen so that the powder does not stay on the surface but touches the skin of the animal. The recommended amount is one application to the entire animal every two days for 1 month.
Since hens usually have a hole where they roll around regularly, you can put them in regularly as a preventive treatment.
As it is also necessary to treat the spaces where the contaminated animals live, it is advisable to dilute the diatomaceous earth to pulverize it, at the rate of 5 g per 1 l of water. White diatomaceous earth dilutes more easily and is better suited for this purpose.