DE -- Must it be "food grade"?

Bard Shamrock

In the Brooder
10 Years
Sep 26, 2009
East Virginia
Hello, all.

Yesterday I bought three chickens (my first chickens) and put them into the coop with 6 Guinea birds that I bought about 6 weeks ago (also my first) and now I feel like I have some kind of fleas or lice or mites crawling on me. I can't see them but I can sure feel them!

So, I read about using diatomaceous earth to kill the bugs, but I noticed some people say that the DE must be "food grade."

Is this true, and if so, why? It seems to me that the heat-treated DE that they sell for water filtration would work even better than the "food grade" DE at killing bugs, and it certainly doesn't look like it would be harmful to ingest in small quantities...

Has anyone here actually used the "water filter" type of DE for this purpose, and if so, how did it work out?

I'm having trouble finding a decent price on the food grade material, and was considering using the heat-treated type.

Please tell me why this is a good or bad idea. Thanks in advance for any advice.



Premium Feather Member
13 Years
Jan 11, 2007
The high silica content in the water filtration type DE is toxic to birds. Food grade DE has less than 3% silica. The other is in excess of 20% and higher. Food grade DE can be put in the feed, bedding and directly on the bird without concern for ingesting it and causing toxicity. I would not risk the other on my birds.

VA from WV

10 Years
Sep 26, 2009
Eastern Pandhandle WV
Ingesting pool grade DE isn't the problem. Breathing the dust from it is.

Agricultural or Garden grade DE may be safe for your birds, but it is necessary to find out what the actual percentage of silicon is before you use it.

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