Diatomaceous Earth is marvelous and I wouldn't be without it in my poultry supplies. It has many uses for my birds but also other animals and bug control around the home. It consists of micro skeletons of fossilised remains of deceased diatoms, which are a type of algae found in both sea water and fresh water.
Diatomaceous Earth has a wide variety of uses such as in filtration (drinking water filters, fish tanks and swimming pools), abrasives (it is in some toothpastes and facial scrubs), as an absorbent for liquids (like cat litter), and it is used in dynamite to make it more stable. Food grade diatomaceous earth is particularly useful to reduce internal and external parasites (such as Worms, Lice and Mites) in animals, including poultry.
The powder absorbs lipids from the waxy outer layer of mites and lice, which causes them to dehydrate and then die. For internal parasites, the abrasive microscopically sharp edges will kill many of the worms with regular use (it must be used daily for it to be effective) although remember there are also larvae in the bloodstream that won't be killed by diatomaceous earth. It is for this reason, I personally believe using a chemical wormer two or three times per year (I use Flubenvet although this isn't licensed for ducks in the UK even though I know many people who use it) to make sure.
Good poultry suppliers will sell food grade diatomaceous earth in tubs that can be used in the following ways as an organic approach to parasite control. Do not be tempted to buy industrial diatomaceous earth that is intended for other applications as it will have a different composition and may be dangerous to your health or that of your birds.
1. Removing lice and mites. Diatomaceous earth can be dusted between the feathers and onto the skin regularly. It can be added to dust baths which is particularly useful. Since it is a natural / organic product, it can be used on your chickens. Many other products and louse powders state that they are for use in nest boxes and on bedding, not on your birds. This is because they are not licensed for use on chickens which produce eggs for human consumption.
2. Added to poultry feed - daily use of diatom as a feed additive may result in fewer worms, less mortality and better feathering. There are many different trace minerals contained in diatomaceous earth that are beneficial to poultry. The dose that is commonly used in most animals from poultry to cats, dogs and even cattle is between 2 and 5% (follow the manufacturers recommendations) added to their feed.
3. Other uses - it has a huge variety of other uses from water filtration to cat litter and it is often mixed with grains during storage to prevent mites getting into it and to keep it dry. The other main use I have for it around the home is for an organic approach to flea control on our pets.
Diatomaceous Earth is particularly useful if you keep poultry and is well worth having to help in the battle against worms, red mite and lice. For example you can read in my blog how I used diatom to get rid of a red mite infestation in one of my chicken houses.