We live in southern Virginia in the country and have a 3 acre pond. Our main concern right now is the water moccasins and copperheads. We will be putting our ducks out tomorrow afternoon after we finish putting the fencing up and finish the building.
I grew up in Georgia, so I am familiar with the concerns about moccasins and copperheads. Yowza. Moccasins in the water, copperheads in the high and dry areas. "Don't put your hand where you cannot see it," was what my dad said when we went hiking.
So how close to the water will the coops be?
According to this person, a mix of clove and cinnamon oil is good. And also the way you build the coop will make a difference.
Please, people, educate yourselves about the most basic chemistry. The topic here is elemental sulfur, not some random compound containing sulfur or with "sulfo-" in the name. There are thousands or sulfur compounds, some of which are vital nutrients, some are lethal poisons, with countless molecules in between.
This kind of logic is like pointing to methanol, or one of the countless other deadly chemicals containing carbon, and saying "We should never eat anything with carbon in it or feed it to the chickens." That would lead to immediate starvation, since ALL the food we require for energy to live or for building and repairing bodies is carbon-based. Every single sugar, fat, starch, or protein molecule contains carbon.
I don't want to be pedantic about it, but this kind of confused or sloppy thinking is what leads to the proliferation of pseudoscientific nonsense, esp. about health and medicine, based on rumors, half-baked backyard theories, and false correlations. Lots of people, and probably chickens, die because of this kind of misinformation. For a current example, see the totally debunked notion that vaccines cause autism. Lots of children in the UK are dying right now because their parents were spooked by the false claims and "science" from one crackpot doctor.
I'm new to commenting here, so to be clear, I was trying to reply to Amiga, who made that "sulfur is toxic" comment. I don't mean to single her/him out, since I've seen lots of discussion of a similar kind on this site.
Back to elemental sulfur (the pure yellow stuff in powdered or granular form), it's been understood for centuries to be non-toxic when eaten, even in large quantities (like spoonfuls per day, not a whole meal) for humans and other animals. Years ago when I hiked through the fields and woods in Kentucky and Arkansas to explore caves, I learned that eating a spoonful of powdered sulfur the day before would prevent chigger (close relative of poultry mites) bites. According to some recent research here (http://www.thepoultrysite.com/articles/2470/novel-control-of-fowl-mites), elemental sulfur mixed into chicken feed at 1 to 3 tenths of one percent (3-5 pounds sulfur per ton of feed), is quite effective against poultry mites, too. That could have some big advantages over other mite control measures that involve dusting or spraying all over the place.
There are topics that have a number of different opinions and facts, and this seems to be one. The original link to the poultry site is expired. Oh, well. I did find this interesting remark in regards specifically to a discussion about goats on the sweetlix site, from this page
"Sulfur’s Role in Parasite Control Sulfur has historically been used as a treatment for external parasites. Sulfur-containing compounds are even today extensively used to control external parasites of horticultural plants. Animal use is usually in the form of a lime-sulfur solution, which is applied externally to the animal. Topical use of sulfur is moderately successful in external parasite control. However, there is no evidence that supports the belief that added sulfur in the diet controls external parasites such as flies, fleas, ticks, etc. Use of sulfur in this way falls into the category of “wives’ tales and folk medicine”. Not only has sulfur salt not been proven to control parasites, but also, excess sulfur can actually be detrimental to your goats. "
This page from Cornell states on the one hand that
"Sulfur is known to be of low toxicity, and poses very little if any risk to human and animal health (1, 8). Short-term studies show that sulfur is of very low acute oral toxicity and does not irritate the skin (it has been placed in EPA Toxicity Category IV, the least toxic category, for these effects). Sulfur also is not a skin sensitizer."
The next sentence states "However, it can cause some eye irritation, dermal toxicity and inhalation hazards (8)."
I am not keen on putting animals at risk of "inhalation hazards." But I am fairly conservative in my management.
Oh, and then we find out that
"When taken orally, it has a mild laxative action (1). It may cause irritation of skin and the mucous membranes. Sulfur is considered a skin and eye irritant (1, 2, 3, 4). Acute exposure inhalation of large amounts of the dust may cause catarrhal inflammation of the nasal mucosa which may lead to hyperplasia with abundant nasal secretions. Trachiobronchitis is a frequent occurrence, with dyspnea, persistent cough and expectoration which may sometimes be streaked with blood (5)."
But it's not very toxic.
Cornell is a somewhat reputable institution, so they probably have some research to back up their statements.
It's not just a matter of different opinions; there's a lot of research to back it up.
By "non-toxic," I didn't mean sulfur has no irritating or even harmful effects at any conceivable dose, but that when used sensibly as it has been by for decades or centuries, externally and internally, it has no known serious or persistent toxic effects. After all, sulfur is a nutrient. Most of the effects you cite could also apply to salt, vinegar, lemon juice, and various other compounds or materials that we use every day - if they're overused or used wrong. The mild laxative effect is well known, and sulfur has been used for that purpose just about forever. The only possibly serious effects I see in what you quote from Cornell are from "acute exposure inhalation of large amounts of the dust." Well, sure, I don't doubt it. But so what? I didn't suggest breathing large amounts of it or making poultry do so. Sulfur can also burn or possibly even explode, if mixed with air in large amounts and then ignited. So don't do that, either.
My point was that sulfur is perhaps the most effective and safe "alternative" treatment for mite (and louse) infestation yet discovered. Several times more effective than DE, which I had thought was the best option, and most likely safer to breath in small amounts. And sulfur certainly does not have residual toxic effects (nervous system, cancer, etc.) the way many or most of the insecticides such as lindane, permethrin, etc., are likely to.
Nothing is perfectly safe and non-toxic in all situations or all doses, but sulfur is pretty close (again, it's a nutrient in small or moderate quantities, which means our bodies can tolerate a wide range of exposures). Compared to letting poultry suffer from parasites, it seems to be a no-brainer choice.
To follow up a little, I used a comparison of sulfur to table salt to illustrate the generally accepted meaning of "non-toxic." Most of us would agree that sodium chloride is non-toxic, even though if you ate half a pound of it at one sitting, you would probably die. You'd be much better off eating a half-pound of sulfur, which might give you the runs for a day or two, but it wouldn't poison you. If you rub salt in your eyes, they'll be irritated. Even putting too much of it on your skin is probably not a great idea, although I imagine you could breath salt dust all day long with no ill effects.
From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulfur):
"Elemental sulfur is non-toxic, as generally are the soluble sulfate salts, such as Epsom salts. Soluble sulfate salts are poorly absorbed and laxative. However, when injected parenterally, they are freely filtered by the kidneys and eliminated with very little toxicity in multi-gram amounts."
I doubt you could inject multi-gram amounts of sodium salts and have the same happy results. As I mentioned earlier, when we used sulfur internally and externally years ago, it seemed quite effective against chiggers and ticks. We never had skin irritation, though maybe that would happen after months of constant use, and I don't remember even a mild laxative effect. Because I ate it and dusted it on skin and clothes simultaneously, according to your source I was subject to the "old wives' tale" about internal use. Good to know about that, but interesting that some research suggests that mixing sulfur in chicken feed does work against mites. The efficacy (and safety) of external sulfur dusting appears very clear, though.
Again from Wikipedia:
"Elemental sulfur is one of the oldest fungicides and pesticides. ... Biosulfur (biologically produced elemental sulfur with hydrophilic characteristics) can be used well for these applications. ... Elemental sulfur powder is used as an "organic" (i.e. "green") insecticide (actually an acaricide) against ticks and mites. A common method of use is to dust clothing or limbs with sulfur powder."
I stand by my claim that sulfur is non-toxic in the generally agreed-upon use of that term, and that it's a safe and effective mite treatment when applied in moderate occasional quantities directly to chicken skin and feathers, or mixed routinely into bathing dust (10% sulfur to 90% sand by weight, as tested by the "Novel Control of Fowl Mites" researchers, is highly effective). For a bad coop infestation, sulfur can also be used as a dust or water slurry, directly on cracks and other sites where mites hide out. All this might not apply to ducks, but since this is mainly a chicken site, that's my main interest. If you read the paper cited earlier, it's notable that sulfur dustbathing reduced mites by 99.9%, in an effect that lasted at least six weeks after removing the dustbox. The non-dustbathing hens that lived with the dustbathing ones also had 99% declines in mite infestation, an effect that did not occur with diatomaceous earth or kaolin (clay dust). This is an important point for anyone (like us) who has a few members of the flock that don't regularly dustbathe, and are the first to be badly hit by mites.
Amiga, I appreciate your willingness to debate this and bring evidence to bear, in a courteous way. I'm glad you didn't take my somewhat provocative original reply too personally. This is a great way for all of us to learn and find better ways of doing things.