Another Diatromaceous Earth question

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by JReedy72, Apr 13, 2009.

  1. JReedy72

    JReedy72 Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 26, 2009
    Hopewell, VA
    Hello all,

    Okay, so looking at the use of food grade DE as an odor controller (deep litter method), I went out this weekend and stopped by a couple of feed stores in the middle of nowhere, Virginia, looking for a supplier. The first guy told me he did not carry it as he did not get much call for it. Then I went back to my car, and saw a truck that had a sign for fresh eggs, and saw a lady there with a couple poultry cages with a variety of chickens. I asked her and she told me to never use DE for this purpose. She mentioned that breathing it can be dangerous for humans, and went on and on about how her vet told her not to use it and so forth, for a variety of reasons. She told me to use baking soda. Then, I went to another place and was told almost the same thing by a lady there that also has kept chickens for many years. They sold DE there, but it was an insect control stuff that said “pet approved” but not “food grade.”

    I know what DE is as I grew up in Lompoc, CA – which happens to have the second largest deposit of DE in the world outside of somewhere in Europe. But, I went to Wikipedia and found the following:
    “The absorbent qualities of diatomite can result in a significant drying of the hands, if handled without gloves. The saltwater (industrial) form contains a highly crystalline form of silica, resulting in sharp edges. The sharpness of this version of the material makes it dangerous to breathe and a dust mask is recommended when working with it.
    The type of hazard posed by inhalation depends on the form of the silica. Crystalline silica poses a serious inhalation hazard because it can cause silicosis. Amorphous silica can cause dusty lungs, but does not carry the same degree of risk as crystalline silica. Food-grade diatomite generally contains very low percentages of crystalline silica. Diatomite produced for pool filters is treated with heat, causing the formerly amorphous silicon dioxide to assume its crystalline form.
    In the United States, the crystalline silica content in the dusts is regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and there are guidelines for the maximum amounts allowable in the product and in the air near the breathing zone of worker.”
    -Please excuse my confusion and lack of experience. It sounds to me like using it in this fashion is a bad idea. Here are my questions:
    -Is the food grade DE different from the type that is mentioned above as somewhat dangerous to breath? (I realize that it mentions “industrial” form, which is probably different than the food grade form…right?)
    -If it’s dangerous to people, why would it not be dangerous to our birds?
    -Why not just use baking soda?
    -Why did the only two people, who have surely never met, give me the same reasons not to use DE, and yet, this forum goes on and on that it’s the best thing to use?
    -Has anyone ever had any problems using food grade DE in this type of application?
    I just want two things – keep my birds healthy and as happy as a chicken can be, and to help keep any bad odor down while considering heavily, the health of my family (and myself!).
    Any thoughts would be appreciated. I appreciate both opinions and facts, but remember that facts speak louder than opinions. What I mean is that, I want your opinions, but I would appreciate any hard facts that anyone has.
    JReedy72 (Jason)
  2. ozark hen

    ozark hen Living My Dream

    Apr 4, 2007
    Mansfield, MO
    [​IMG] Hi there and welcome Jason! I use D.E. FOOD GRADE only. I will continue to use it as I use it to keep my coop/chickens clear of mites, etc. Odor is just a side benefit for me. [​IMG] I, too, use deep litter method. I put the D.E. in their "dust bowls", nests and under all the litter when I clean out the coop. There is always dust when you work that litter in the coop so it is best to cover your mouth to be on the safe side anyway. Many old timers never used D.E. as they didn't have access to it long ago and I am sure many do not use it now but why risk having mites in the coop and on your chickens?? That is what would rule my decision. Again, this is just my opinion.
  3. flopshot

    flopshot Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 17, 2009
    couple of search results:

    Origins of Diatomaceous Earth
    With more than 600 deposits of diatomite west of the Mississippi—and only four (to our knowledge) that can be considered food grade—it is very important that people know what they are using. The vast majority of diatomite deposits are impure.

    When diatomite is formed, water currents bring in foreign material that mixes with the microscopic diatom shells. This type of diatomite is absolutely without value for practical purposes, but many people tend to think that if it is “Diatomaceous Earth,” then it has the same value as other, purer deposits. There are many places where diatomite deposits can be loaded up “for free,” but generally this substance has no value. If this impure diatomite is sold for practical usage, the customer may end up with an unpleasant surprise.


    Scientists estimate that there may be as many as 12,000 species of Diatoms, each identifiable by their delicate, ornate shells. Diatoms are a dominant species of phytoplankton, ... This fine, crumbly substance is used in insulating materials, abrasives, ceramics, and in filtering and filling materials. More than 270,000 metric tons of it are extracted annually from a quarry near Lompoc, California.

    Diatomaceous Earth comes in at least two grades: Horticultural Grade and Food Grade. It's important to use only Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth if you're using it to store grains. If you want to use it on plants, don't get any on the flowers. It'll slice up the few honeybees we have left. And I don't recommend incorporating mass quantities into the soil. Earthworms are good things: You don't want to hurt them until you put 'em on your fishhook. Diatomaceous Earth is also effective against fleas, but again, take care not to let your pet breathe it.
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    is the food grade DE different from the type that is mentioned above as somewhat dangerous to breath? (I realize that it mentions “industrial” form, which is probably different than the food grade form…right?)

    Assuming labelling is accurate, food-grade DE contains next to no crystalline silica, which is the stuff that is really rather dangerous to breathe and causes silicosis etc.

    I know of no reason to believe that food-grade DE is worse than any other typical dust, like road dust -- you don't want to breathe gratuitous amounts of it but assuming you behave sensibly you'll be fine (barring some individuals with preexisting respiratory problems, perhaps).

    Here is a link to a copy of the MSDS sheet for food-grade DE:

    For comparison, here is a link to a copy of same for baking soda:

    Not much difference. It is better not to breathe *either one*, but neither is particularly dangerous.

    -Why not just use baking soda?

    Baking soda seems a slightly odd choice. It is expensive (unless you have an industrial type source), and will weird out the pH of your coop cleanings if you have any substantial amount in there, which you'd want to *check* how the composted results will affect your garden.

    PLUS, baking soda will not do much of anything vs mites and lice.... which is probably the most popular and (IMO) reasonable use to which DE is put.

    There are plenty of alternatives for odor control: more ventilation, better hygeine, drier run, droppings boards, and if all else fails it'd be cheaper to use zeolite/clay type stall powders such as Sweet PDZ or Stable Boy.

    For mite/lice treatment, though, your alternatives to DE are limited to things like Sevin or Rotenone, both of which are unarguably worse for you (although still not *tremendously* toxic pesticides). So I believe there is something to be said for DE as a treatment for lice/mites.

    Why did the only two people, who have surely never met, give me the same reasons not to use DE, and yet, this forum goes on and on that it’s the best thing to use?

    There is actually quite a diversity of opinions on BYC about whether or how to use DE.

    Yes, there is a popular 'bandwagon' as well, but you get that sort of thing happening any time you get a bunch of people hanging out together, esp if many are relative newbies. <Shrug>.

    So, do some reading, and thinking, and form your own opinions [​IMG]

    Good luck, have fun,

    Last edited: Apr 13, 2009
  5. I use DE and Have no problems with it. I use hay in the coop and use DE in both the nests and on the hay, I also rub a heavy handful on the roost when I clean out the hay. You might try to Google golden blend and see if they have a rep in your area. I buy mine from a man who sells exotic bird food and so I don't have to pay shipping, And I pay $20.00 for a 50 lb bag, so I know its FOOD GRADE. . & welcome [​IMG] marrie
  6. SophieLain127

    SophieLain127 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 7, 2009
    I've had problems finding DE in columbus OH so I contacted OSU because they have an agricultural department. I figured they would be the best to tell me where to get it and if I should be worried or not.

    You might want to do the same thing find a college and ask them.
  7. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    I find that food-grade DE is exceptionally good, and the poultry feed I buy is 5% DE by weight. Birds are thriving and I had 12 eggs from 12 hens today. But if it bothers you why not use a product like Stable Boy or Stall-Dri designed for all kinds of animal stalls?

    I've also used Stable Boy for years with horses and I mix it with food-grade DE in my coop.
  8. Peeper7

    Peeper7 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 2, 2009
    Northeast Ohio
    There is a fantastic natural outlet for natural and organic fertilizers and other products. I have purchased food grade DE from them.
    Their prices are good.

    No kind of dust is healthy to breathe. It's a good idea to slightly dampen what you are fluffing and wear a mask. The chickens "do dust" naturally so who knows if it will bother them, but I would agree that the sharp silica should not be inhaled by man nor beast. It is great parasite control though. Not the ideal thing for a deodorizer, the benefit would be coming from the dryness.

    here is a link to Ohio Earth Foods:
  9. TammyTX

    TammyTX Overrun With Chickens

    Feb 16, 2009
    Has anyone heard of using wood ash for dust baths? ...okay, cooled wood ash of course, not trying to pre-cook my chickens!
  10. Mary Of Exeter

    Mary Of Exeter Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 10, 2009
    Rowan County, NC
    We use DE and it works great for us. Helps absorb moisture and keep bugs out. The food grade DE is basically crushed up fossils; completely organic and safe for us, the birds, and pets. In fact, it's great to pour in your feed storage bins to prevent bugs from getting in and eating/contaminating the feed. No dust is good dust to breathe, but it shouldn't cause much problem unless you use gobs and gobs of it at once.
    Just remember that once it gets wet, it loses effectiveness as far as bug killing goes. So you'd need to put out some fresh DE every once in a while.
    There is the DE they put in pools (NOT food grade of course), which is harmful, so don't get confused!

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