Diatomaceous earth--- Really that harmless?????


12 Years
Apr 13, 2007
OK everyone, I have a question!

We are getting everything ready for the babies, and being a hyper mom, I am getting everything I *might* need for them anytime in the next 6 mos! LOL! I have an area in the coop that I am going to put a little dust bath area, and was going to mix wood ashes, sand and DE together for the dust bath. I was also reading about how fabulous DE was for mites/lice and had planned on sprinkling it into the deep-litter pine shavings.

So off I go to the feed store, and ask for DE, and the owner looks at me like I am crazy! "Are you sure you *really* want that?" He says. I tell him what I am planning on using it for and he says this "Well, I worked in the poultry industry for 25 years, and DE is a carcinogen (cancer causing ingredient) and is VERY bad for the lungs. It is silicon, which is powdered glass, and can be very harmful if inhaled. The way it works is that the tiny glass powder cuts the lice/mites and they dehydrate, but if you keep your coop cleaned you should not have a problem with them. Yes, technically it is "food grade", but you can have real problems if it is inhaled"

OK, so now my head is spinning. My 2 kids both have asthma, and the thought of purposly putting a known carcinogen powder in the coop for the chickens to roll around in, and kick up on the deep litter, and then have my children hold them seems CRAZY!! We are raising these 7 chicks as pets, with a bonus that we will get eggs, and are raising them ORGANICALLY!!! Is DE really all that harmless, or is this guy onto something???

We are now looking into using Sweet PDZ in the deep litter, and just letting the chickens bathe in wood ash/sand. But now I am even wondering about Sweet PDZ!


Barnyard Dawg

12 Years
Feb 7, 2007
Northern California
I have taken DE in warm water internally myself, dusted the hen house and pen area, fed to my dogs and chickens haven't had any difficulty. But yes do take precautions if you have any health concerns not to breathe the powder use a respirator and don't get it it your eyes it could cause some irritation, I use a spreader, make sure it is not windy when applying. I also us Sweet PDZ.


12 Years
Apr 10, 2007
Foothills of Central CA
That guy doesn't know what he's talking about. Diatomaceous earth is completely organic - it is the remains of little critters. Do a search on the internet and you can get a lot of info on it.


In the Brooder
12 Years
Apr 8, 2007
Pacific NW
DE should not be silicone... it the 'd' stands for diatom.... and that's what cuts up bug bodies and acts as a desiccant...

if you have a natural food store, or natural pet products store in your area they should sell it in canisters for flea prevention.

I have used it in my home and yard with out any problems for anyone... But i got it for fleas for my dogs - my chickies have never had any bugs, so you probably don't need to mess with it unless/until you have a problem.

Good luck!


Flock Goddess
13 Years
Jan 12, 2007
Weymouth, Massachusetts
I'm asthmatic and I use it for the chicken wallows. I just don't pour it when it's windy out...If you're that worried, you can buy a package of masks at Home Depot.


Intentional Solitude
Premium Feather Member
13 Years
Feb 3, 2007
Blue Ridge Mtns. of North Georgia
First, it must be FOOD GRADE DE, not the stuff Home Depot sells. And it isnt easy to find. I have to drive an hour and pay $32 for a 50 lb bag. It does last for months, though. The bag will say Chemical Codex Food Grade. The other stuff is for cleaning pool filters.


12 Years
Feb 2, 2007
Western Montana
Non-food grade DE is absolutely a carcinogen- it causes lung cancer. But you are not using that!

Both food grade and non-food grade DE are made of silica, not silicone. Silica is what glass is made out of. Diatoms, the little aquatic creatures, make tiny funky shells using silica that they live in. When the diatom dies, the silica shells remain intact and can be collected after they settle out of the water.

The sharp edges of the non-food grade DE can lodge in your lungs, like asbestos, and give you lung cancer. Food grade DE is shaped and treated differently, thus it poses only a very small threat if inhaled.

I don't know if I would use DE if I were you, but that is a personal choice. The guy at the feed store was not so much wrong as confused.


12 Years
Feb 12, 2007
8A East Texas
speckledhen is right, you need to SPECIFY the food grade or what you are going to get is the stuff for pool filters. The words "Chemical Codex Food Grade" must be stamped on the bag.

We get Food Grade DE at our local farm co-op. It cost $15 for 50 pounds. It is used locally to filter maple sap for syrup production. I add it to the sand and wood shavings that my flock likes to use for dust baths. I refuse to pay shipping for anything if I can support my local businesses. Check with your feed store guy again and see if he can't order it for you.
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In the Brooder
13 Years
Jan 11, 2007
I don't use DE & never have. My son also has allergies & asthma. The dust from the chickens is enough to choke him up. I don't need to add something to make it worse. JMHO

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