DE is preventative but won't cure an infestation.... why?


10 Years
Jun 11, 2009
Nova Scotia
I have been reading threads on gape worm. Many say the only treatment for gape worm is ivermectin. DE is effective in preventing worms... De kills parasites internally when the chicken injests it. Razor sharp, damages worms, dehydrates worms, etc.
My first question is.... how can DE kill parasites inside the chicken body where it is wet? I use DE in the garden to kill slugs and snails. It works the same way but when it becomes wet it is much less effective.
My second question is... if it really does kill parasites, why would it not be effective against killing an already established parasite colony? With multiple treatments?
I have one pet chicken that is showing signs of gape.... I am thinking about treating her with ivermectin. She doesn't lay eggs. But I don't want to treat my layers with this drug. I sell my eggs and I can not, with good conscience, just decide to discard for a certain number of days after treatment and then sell more eggs. The people that buy my eggs are looking for a better, safer product than the eggs found in the store. Treating with a drug that is not even approved for chickens seems risky. There are lots of posts saying how long it takes before the drug leaves the body and eggs, but until scientists have tested it, we don't really know.
I think the problem here is that some claim that DE is effective internally against worms, but I have never seen any documentation this is true. And Ivermectin has no egg withdrawal; it is used on people in Africa to treat river blindness. I think your question about DE's effectiveness is quite valid, the answer being that it can't.

I have read of chickens quite ill with worms who were getting DE to (supposedly) prevent worms. I'll be amazed if I ever come across any documentation that it works internally against worms.
I do understand that Ivermectin is used on humans to treat river blindness in poor countries, but all drugs have side effects and can be bad for all living things in ways we still don't understand. This is a chemical that is systemic that kills internal and external parasites of hosts. (people, livestock, pets) But it is so different to say... treat a cat. But to give it to a chicken and then at some point give eggs laid by the chicken to healthy people? I don't understand.... there are organic farms all over Canada and US. How do they treat their chickens with gape worm? Or do they just live with it and most don't suffocate from the worms clogging their trach?
From what I read, ivermectin has no withdraw period for eggs because it does not address chickens at all. That doesn't mean the eggs are safe the day after, that just means that it is not meant for chickens at all.
I don't think you can assume that a drug will work the same for all species. Often they do, but also often they don't. Also, the animals Ivermectin are designed for don't lay eggs.
I guess for now, I am going to shine a light down the throat of my pet chicken that I suspect has gape worm. If I see any, I will record my findings. Then I will be sure she eats some DE and I will see if there is any change. I will also log her symptoms.
If that doesn't work, I guess I will have to work out a plan B. I don't know what that is yet.
Owning chickens is so complicated sometimes!
I think DE is more of a deterrent, similar to marigolds for mosquitos. It doens't get rid of them, but they don't like it. If an infestation is already established and food is available(your chicken) I don't think they will leave....I used pour on ivermectin(cattle drench) and it worked great, as a precaution I didn't eat the eggs for 4 weeks(overkill I know). Of course I slacked on gathering eggs and some of the hens went broody
. I also have DE and will be putting it in the "sandbox".

eta- I was told to not eat the eggs for 3 weeks with ivermectin
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You answered you own questions about DE being ineffective when it's wet inside the chickens body. Gapeworm, or any worm in a flock is one worm too many. One worm can lay thousands of eggs to be shed, only to be picked up by other chickens and infect them...starting the worms lifecyle over again and constantly repeated. The lifecycle must be stopped or the worms will eventually starve its host of nutrients and the chicken will die a slow death of starvation. Gapeworm will wipe a flock out quickly because they reproduce quickly. They clog the trachea causing the chicken to suffocate and the chicken will die. If a chickens feet touch the ground, they will get worms eventually. This why a worming program is important. If your chickens have been eating normally, I doubt they have gapeworm, they would be unable to swallow and loudly gasping for air. You can use a Q-tip and stick it down the throat and gently swab it. Remove the Q-tip and if you see a red in color "Y" shaped worm on it, that's gapeworm. Then you would need to treat with ivermectin, albendazole, fenbendazole or flubenvet if you have access to them. The only wormers approved for use in chickens here is wazine (piperazine) and possibly flubenvet in your country. Piperazine only gets rid of large roundworms. Off label broad spectrum wormers are needed to kill all the other many types of worms that chickens get...or these worms would quickly decimate our flocks, big or small. Therefore we have to use worming products meant for other animals that are proven to be effective for worm control, only we use smaller doses for our chickens.
The difference between giving chickens and giving people a wormer is that people are under a doctors supervision. If there are complications in the human, an adverse reaction for example, an antidote or a trip to the emergency room may be required. For this reason that is why there are recommended withdrawal times for the wormer to be expelled from the chickens system. Wormers are poisons... the residue in the egg however so slight could cause a reaction if there's a sensitivity to it. You've heard of bacterial resistance to antibiotics as well..same can happen with wormers. When a person truly needs a wormer for instance, that particular wormer may not work due to worm resistance...all from eating tainted eggs.
Environment also determines how often you should worm. If you live in a cold or mountainous place, you might only need to worm once a year or longer. The soil is too cold, not condusive for worms. If you live in a warmer climate like I do, the soil here is very condusive for worms and I worm quarterly. I hope this helps and good luck.
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I believe that DE is not all it's cracked up to be and is a wast of money.
One of the "on line pushers" of DE says that DE is,

"DE is approximately 3% magnesium, 33% silicon, 19% calcium, 5% sodium, 2% iron and many other trace minerals such as titanium, boron, manganese, copper and zirconium. Diatomaceous Earth is a natural (not calcined or flux calcined) compound. Diatomaceous Earth is a natural grade diatomite. However, the continual breathing of any dust should he absolutely avoided."

33% Silicon, Silicon (Silica) makes up 28% of the earth's crust, making it the second most abundant element (exceeded by oxygen), so if you are offering DE your birds are only taking in about 5% more Silicon than it they were eating dirt.

"I use DE in the garden to kill slugs and snails"

I would bet that it wasn't DE that killed the slugs and snails but it was the Sodium in the DE that killed them.

If you have Gape Worm you can use either
Flubendazole in feed

Any healthy person's body can absorb small amounts of chemicals with reasonable safety. If one is obsessed with not using modern products then I say enjoy your worms. The chickens in this day and age will most likely die of other means and eating eggs with barely traceable amounts of chemicals is done daily unknowingly. There are chemicals found in all foods naturally. Tabacco will kill worms not real sure about gapeworms but it will reduce them. Some parasites will invade eggs also.
It seems that worms are a big problem with chickens - I read that when your chicken's feet are on the ground they will eventually get worms - because of this I always think of raising my chickens on wire - put wire with small holes in their run which would help with the worm problem and also make it easier to clean - but people say that wire would hurt the feet of the chickens - does anyone raise their chickens of wire ? - if so does that really cause problems ?- I don't free range my chickens so they wouldn't get worms anywhere else - having to periodically worm my chickens doesn't seem something I want to do - it defeats the purpose of me raising them - I want healthy eggs and occasionally some meat - of all the sickness that chickens can get the worms seem the worst as far as getting rid of them - it seems that everything should be done so they don't get them in the first place - any comments? - thanks
`Food Grade' Amorphous Diatomaceous Earth does not kill insects by `cutting them up' it is a SORPTIVE DUST and kills by interfering with the outer waxy layer of the insect's exoskeleton, i,e., ADSORPTION and, as it continues this activity even after the insect is dead and, a dead insect doesn't move, no friction, e.g., `cutting/tearing' is necessary.

It is regarded as GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) by the FDA. The EPA also regards ADE as safe (requires different labeling) and can be used in the house/on pet beds/etc.

It is a relatively effective, relatively benign insecticide/desiccant. It is best used as a preventative. Some insects are more vulnerable than others. High humidity reduces its effectiveness.

For more info on the above, with links to EPA designation/mechanism of action/pricing info: (post #20) (posts #'s 11/20/22).
I found some science on the external use of DE. Sorry I can't say anything about the internal use but I suspect it's ineffective... This is a link to my wife's biology professor's study of DE and/or entomopathogen combinations when used on red fire ants. This is what they found using DE alone (externally): "At 10 d after exposure, mortality of healthy
workers exposed to DE alone was 29% (Fig. 1).
Arthur (2000) reported that insect mortality is directly related to DE exposure interval and Stimac
et al. (1993) observed almost twice this level of mortality of fire ants after 22-30 d of exposure to DE."

Please see the link if interested!

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