Diatomaceous Earth – Natural Chicken Insecticide Parasite Protection

What is Diatomaceous earth? It’s basically rock containing fossilised micro skeletal remains. It’s usually crushed into various grade of powder and used in different applications.

How does diatomaceous earth work as a natural insecticide? The simplified version is that it’s the equivalent of insects dragging their bodies across a field of super sharp razors that cut through their exoskeleton (armour). As to its efficacy, I’ll leave it up to you to decide. Seeing as I was new to chicken keeping I thought it best to outlay the cost to give the chooks a head start, especially given they were coming from an egg production farm with a condensed living environment and could be bringing mites and other bugs with them. The chickens already had a lot of feather loss and I had no idea how much of that was due to parasites.
Here’s an article to leave you a little more confused   :o)
http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/05/diatomaceous-earth-de-benefitrisk.html
How to use it with chickens? You can add it to their feed as well as put it in their dust baths and nesting boxes. I use it mostly as an additive to their dedicated dust bath area. I just mix it into the top layer of sand and the chickens do the rest.

It’s a super fine particle so you will want to wear a dust mask when handling it. After all your don’t want mini razors in your lungs right? I never handle it on days that have even the slightest wind. Other than the respiratory factor it just goes everywhere with the slightest gust when you try to place it. If I don’t have a mask I definitely pull my T-shirt up over my nose ninja style. It’s not perfect but a better precaution than than not doing so. It’s been nearly a year and the chickens have no respiratory conditions that I know of. I stir the DE in with the sand and I think it binds to the sand grains reducing the amount that floats up in the air while still getting flicked under their wings.

You’ll find most diatomaceous products in Au come from Mt Sylvia.
I use their DE.Fines with my chickens (Yes it’s food grade, check out the link below to Mt Sylvia). I spoke to their rep and he said the Absorbacide is ~10 microns and the Fines are ~30 microns.
Seriously, at that level you know there’s going to be 10micron particles in amongst the ‘massive’ 30 micron ones.

When I got pricing I rang mostly produce stores thinking they’d have cheap bulk pricing but they all seemed to be ludicrously expensive too. Pricing ranged from $9/kg up to $60+/kg !
I highly recommend Farmcraft in Acacia Ridge. I get a lot of my rural supplies from them. My Barastoc Golden Yolk feed for $15 (lot  places are $20-$22) and my DE Fines cost $39.95/20kg bag  That’s ~$2/kg!
Just call ahead as you may need to order it in.
There’s a very good chance the smaller packaged expensive DE you get comes from Mt. Sylvia. You can read all about their products here.
http://www.mtsylviadiatomite.com.au/product

I chose fines because I figured there’d be absobicide sized grains in there as well as the 30 micron grains, which it does. It was my balance between insecticide capabilities and possible respiratory issues for the chooks (and myself). Plus it was the best bang for buck. I’m trying to minimise inputs to my permaculture system but I’m not going to be able to grab a shovel and start mining DE so I may as well keep these costs down by buying a large bag that’ll last for ages.

The Chicken Diaries #5 (Perpetual Chicken Roosting Machine & The Chicken Pyramid)

Dear Diary,

The girls and I are finally attempting to get up onto the roosting bar at night as our first port of call. The human has now spent over a month tucking us in each night. He stands there every night and watches us climb up the ramp to the roosting bar, assisting those that are having a few difficulties or give up and try to sleep on the ground. What he didn’t account for is that chickens think the end of the roosting bar near the wall is prime roosting real estate and thus the perpetual chicken roosting machine is created.

Here’s how it works. The first ladychicken goes up the ramp and sits by the wall. The second and third go up the ramp and sit beside her but don’t move along the roosting bar so when hens number four, five and six come up the ramp they simply try and squeeze in between the already squatting chickens. This results in one or more roosting chickens getting pushed off the roost. The intruding chicken sits down in the newly vacated spot and the fallen chickens make their way up the ramp and once again squeeze between the sitting chickens until one of them falls off.

This will repeat indefinitely until one of the fallen ladies decides to just squat down on the floor and sleep there.

Here’s a picture showing the endless loop.

 

 

This however isn’t part of the human’s plan for us and continues every night despite the additional step he put along the whole length of the roosting bar so that we can feasibly jump onto any point of the roosting bar with ease. Obviously we choose not to.

The girls are determined to be near the ramp and wall to the point where we now form what the human calls the chicken pyramid. Whoever gets to the roosting bar first buckles in and tries to hold their ground. The incoming ladychickens however take this challenge beak on and just squat on the sitting chickens. Given that our balance has been improving over the weeks with all of Treatgod’s training this stacking effect at times can almost get to three chickens high! At this point we have achieved chicken pyramid status but it’s short lived as several of us tumble to the floor flapping frantically. Lucky for us the human has made the floor a 30cm (1 ft) thick layer of puffy sugar cane mulch so there’s no injuries other than pride.
You can see in this photo from the last diary entry the additional step up bar the human built for us along the whole roosting bar as a ramp alternative. He even put an upright piece of wood to simulate a wall half way along the roosting bar thinking one of us would opt to roost up against it. Silly human!

 

This is what a chicken sitting on another chicken looks like. Now imagine with three chickens at the bottom and two on top them what a third level of chicken would look like and that’s what we almost achieved except one of the stunt chickens at the bottom couldn’t hold it together!

Chicken Sitting on a Chicken

 

The next photo is the first phase of building the chicken pyramid. The hen resting near the wall has just realised that someone  has just climbed on her back. She is not amused.

Chicken roosting on another chicken

 

The climbing hen is checking her foundation chicken is okay and stable.

Chicken Pyramid Formation

 

We now have two layers of ladychicken! Bear in mind there are another two hens on the ground making their way to the ramp and will ultimately add themselves to the formation of the chicken pyramid.

Chicken Pyramid aka Stunt Chickens

 

 

Unfortunately our three layer chicken pyramid was all too brief and our tired human wasn’t quick enough with the camera, so with no photo it will have to remain in the realm of chicken mythology. The human eventually had a little win with two of the smartest chickens realising that there’s another full sized wall at the other end of the roosting bar. That’s me on the right !

Teaching chickens how to roost.
This going to sleep thing is exhausting. Who would have thought bedtime could be so tiring!

 

The Chicken Diaries #4 (Teaching Chickens How To Roost)

Dear Diary,

ARE YOU FRICKEN KIDDING ME !

He’s named me Lumpy!?!?!!? I am not happy about this at all. What kind of crap name is that? What happened to my exotic name like Jasmine or Scarlett? Just because I came from the egg farm with all my breast feathers pulled out and my skin exposed and well yes it’s kind of bulging, doesn’t mean I want to be lumped with a name like Lumpy.

I am so livid I could spit giblets. Look at me. I’m a beautiful lady.
Lumpy The Chicken

The worst part is I actually run to him when he calls out Lumpy. I can’t help it, after all he is Treatgod and he always has something special just for me.

Breathe in. Breathe Out. I can get through this.

In less disconcerting coop news the other ladychickens are getting more adventurous and they’re slowly picking up on the lessons the silly human is trying to teach us. Yes that’s right, we’re getting taught how to be chickens. We do learn fairly quickly given that our lives have consisted from birth of singularly being egg laying machines. Up until this point there just hasn’t been time nor opportunity to be a chicken.

He hides treats in piles of organic matter so that we have to scratch around to get to them. Sometimes it’s a simple mat of sprouted seeds that he lays out and we slowly check it out and peck at it. Other times he digs out worms and puts them in front of us and we stare at them unsure what so do. At first I thought “I’m not eating that.” After all food shouldn’t move around! But once I finished playing around with the wriggly little thing, I popped it in my mouth and boy was it delicious. Now it’s a fight to get the worms before the others do. Fortunately Treatgod always has a few spare ones that he keeps aside just for me!

It’s now just over a week and our bedtime time is still driving Treatgod carazy! Despite the fact that we’ve finally learned to go into the coop at night which he’s extremely happy about, the roosting bar is still proving to be a challenge. We’re not sure of the protocols involved as we’ve never done this before, so we kind of make it up on the fly. Needless to say things are not going well.

To stop us from sleeping in our preferred nesting box abodes, Treatgod has had to build a special hinged door in front of the nesting boxes that he can pull shut, using twine that runs to the external egg collection door. It’s basically a drawbridge he can use to completely block entry to the nesting boxes. So now when we go into the coop at night, we just stand there and screech at the barrier until we realise that it’s not activated by annoying chicken noises. The downside to this is that every night he has to come down to the coop after we’re all asleep and lower the hatch using the twine that runs to the egg collection door. He’s not a morning person as you’ve probably garnered from my previous posts so this lowering is best done at night.

He has to ensure he lowers it slowly because there’s always one silly chicken who sleeps in it’s path. They ultimately learn it’s not the best place to hunker down.

Here you can see the nesting box drawbridge in place. NO CHICKEN SHALL PASS!

 

With the nesting boxes blocked off we then look for alternative sleeping quarters which usually means a chicken pile in the corner. So to counter that, the sneaky human shoved milk crates and seedling trays in there. But we’re way too smart for him so we do our chicken pile on top of the milk crate and perch on the tray too! This confuses him even more because surely we could just go sit on the nice roost he built us which is the same height and much easier to get up onto than the crates. But no.

So he ups the ante and shoves a big roll of chicken wire in the corner. This seems to work and a lot of angry squawks result when the girls try to get to their favourite spot. Which leaves the other corners of the coop.

So those corners also get the milk crate treatment. At least these corners are closer to the roost so there’s a chance the girls will actually step onto the roosting bar. At this rate there won’t be any room in the coop at all. It’s becoming quite adversarial. Fortunately for us the human is relentlessly stubborn and continues to find new ways to train us. If he wasn’t, he’d probably give up and we’d all probably be heading to that chopping block we discussed in Day 1!

 

With all the corners blocked off our bedtime pretty much runs like this. We walk into the coop. We squawk angrily at the closed off nesting boxes. Then we turn our rage to the blocked off corners, then we head up the ramp to the roosting bar. Sometimes Treatgod will persuade us to move from squatting down in the middle of the floor with a little push towards the ramp. We eventually make our way up there.

Even with all these barriers and clues left for us on “How To Roost” there’s always one stealthy ladychicken who finds a way to beat the system. This one managed to squeeze in under the ramp designed to take us to the roosting bar.

 

Treatgod took this photo and walked back to his big blue house in resignation. It must be sad to be defeated by a bunch of silly chickens!