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 – #3

Dear Diary,

9:00am

We’ve been up for nearly three hours now and a little bit of food wouldn’t go astray. We’ve been here for nearly a week now and two of the girls have been leaving eggy gifts each morning while we wait for our lazy human to arrive and remove this milk crate. I think he’s blocking the door to get us using the nesting boxes rather than laying in random spots. He’s had to pick up a couple of eggs laid in corners of the coop and a couple of times in the middle of the run!  This mansion may be big but I want out and when he finally arrives I’m once again the first one out the door, with the other chickenladies still need coaxing to leave.

It’s a little weird getting accustomed to new ways. The food delivery system is in the form of a bucket with holes in the side but we also get lots of treats each day. So much so that the other chickenladies have taken to calling the human Treatgod because when he brings out those tasty morsels from the big blue house he lives in, we are his most devoted and devout followers. Some of the treats include blended pumpkin with molasses and mixed grains, various fruit platters and vegetable sides as well as regular snacks of home-made yoghurt.  We’ve almost finished all the green stuff growing in the run and we can see more outside of the security door but the human isn’t letting us get to it.

The other chickens are bullying me a lot. There’s a lot of henpecking happening which we do instinctively but the human sometimes gets angry when the others all gang up and pick on me. I think I might stay close to him. They are too chicken to do anything near him (See what I did there!).

I’ve been hovering around Treatgod all day helping him make and test out a ladder plus something called a roosting bar. I have no idea what it’s for. I’m assuming roosters use it, hence the name. We keep poking our heads in the way which is making the project take much longer.

As you can see I’m the only stunt chicken that is brave enough to climb up the ladder to the food. The others just run around below and squawk at not being able to reach the treats. I may be bullied and bottom of the pecking order but I’m the one at the top of the ladder! Silly ladychickens.

The human has had to drop the roosting bar down to half the height it originally was because we have no idea how to get up there. We begin the climb up then we freak out and jump down. Because some of the girls are still struggling with balancing on the thin branches he’s used, Treatgod has made a non-gapped ramp out of the ladder so we can clamber up.  Naturally I’m the first one up testing this precarious walk up to the narrow roosting bar. To tell the truth it’s the bribes of food he places on the bar that got me up there, it’s scary stuff!

 

 

 

Treatgod also picks up the not so brave of our group and puts them on the roosting bar to get them used to it. All they do is eat the food then jump down. It’s going to be a slow process. He’s so determined to get us up off the floor. It seems he doesn’t like us sleeping and wallowing in our poop. Personally I don’t see the what’s the problem as we’re perfectly happy there.

 

6:00pm

So once again it’s dark and the human is still picking up hens from all over the chicken run and putting them in the coop. This time however he’s placing us on the roosting bar. Naturally we’re jumping down and nesting on the floor in the corner in our comfortable chicken pile. A couple of us occasionally stay on the roost for a while but most of us insist on crawling into a crevice on the ground floor to sleep.

He really doesn’t like that some of us go into the nesting boxes to sleep either. Despite his efforts to shove plant pots and bits of wood in there at bedtime we still manage to squeeze in there and sleep all crushed up in our own private studio apartment. It takes up to 15 minutes before he gives up. I think he knows that even the ones who were staying on the roost have jumped down and joined the chicken-pile the moment he’s walked away. Treatgod is not amused.

PS: Treatgod still hasn’t taken the time to anoint us with names. I really wish he would.

The Chicken Diaries -Day 1

Dear Diary,

Friday 5th June 2015 – 9:00am
Things are chaotic here at the egg farm. A whole bunch of us have been moved over the last few days to special holding cages and and there’s a lot of gossipy clucking going around as to why. Word in the shed is that we’re off to some place called the “Shopping Block”. Hooray, I love shopping! There’s been a lot of cars coming and going all day. Small groups of us are taken and shoved into all manner of boxes and cages. I’m guessing that’s how they’re shuttling us to the shops.

9:30am

Oh dear, talk about Chinese whispers gone wrong. It’s the CHOPPING block, not the shopping block! I now have no idea if I really want to get into one of those cars, my small world is in turmoil. The good news is that someone put this appeal on something called FaceSpace or something and and it went viral and the egg farm owners certainly didn’t expect to be run off their feet loading chickens in cars all day. There’s a good chance a lot of us ladychickens may get an opportunity to prove that we’re not past our use by date. Wings crossed, I’m hoping I’ll be one of them.

The family that owns us supplies bulk eggs but also sell eggs direct to the public from a little shop out the front of their house. I can hear the farm employees complaining that they’ve been run off their feet constantly loading chickens into cars since 9am without a break.  The workers keep saying to the arriving humans that they’re running out of chickens. What about me? I’m a chicken. Oh dear this is highly stressful.

3:00pm
Okay now I’m ready to lose what remains of my feathers. All the other girls are getting new homes and I’m still here and it’s late in the day. An old red car has pulled up and a big scary guy with a beard has climbed out and is joking around with the workers. They’re impressed with his DIY milk crate chicken carrying cases. He’s telling them he saw the posting and then realised he had no way to transport six chickens back to his house. So he zip-tied a long piece of cardboard on one side of the milk crate to make a door. Once the crate was loaded he could zip tie the other end and enclose the crate. He also put a piece of cardboard on the base to act as a floor.

 

3:05pm

Eeek! I’m hanging upside down by my legs. Oh no it’s the end. I hear this is how you’re carried to the cone of death. The old biddy nest to me is squawking like there’s no tomorrow and perhaps she’s right. I hope it’s quick.

3:06pm

Ooooh, I’m right way up again and it would seem I’m in one of those milk crate things with my squawking friend. The red car man brought six crates but the workers here figured we’d be fine two to a crate. There’s plenty of room and it’s kind of nice to have someone in here with me. My feathers got a little ruffled when I saw him pay the workers $18 for the six of us, I mean really, $3 each? I’m worth so much more than that.

This driving thing is fun.  I tried asking where we’re going but every time I stuck my head up through the gap to look around and let out a “Buuuuurk”, the bearded man would have a fit of laughter. We’ve obviously been left in the care of a simpleton, this does not bode well. The car ride took nearly an hour so he’s driven a long way to get us. I’m so glad we were two to a crate as it minimised getting jostled around.

Our new human finally took us out of the car. That’s me staring at the camera however I think he took the photo because he’s astounded at the size of the poop one of the girls did. Has he not seen the size of eggs? Boy is he in for a surprise. Perhaps he’s not such a simpleton after all, as he did lay down a lot of cardboard underneath us.

4:00pm

Oh my, this is a little bit posh. The other ladychickens are running around everywhere all excited, they don’t know what to make of it. Our human has given us a mansion to live in! I believe they call it a ‘Coop’, how fancy. Floorspace is roughly 3m(~32ft2 for those chickens who haven’t evolved to the metric system) and that’s just the house! Our private protected yard is about 18m2  (~200ft2) so I’m wondering where the other 100 hens are hiding? Surely all this isn’t just for us six ladychickens?

 

 

 

I can hear our human talking on the phone to a friend. He’s saying he can’t understand how the cheapest breed like an ISA Brown (That’s me!) at point of lay for a backyard costs ~$18/ea while  a fully reared meat chicken is grown to size, sent to an abattoir, processed, packaged, transported to the shops and sold at a profit for under $10. Even my basic chicken math tells me there’s something askew there. He’d better not be working out if I’m economically tasty! Fortunately I think he’s just stoked he got six for the price of one.

Now he’s waffling on about how this purchase was all so sudden and he hasn’t completed work on the coop. Whatever, I’m going to go forage through this weird green stuff on the ground while the human stuffs around with his drill making ramps for us to get to the front door.

5:30pm

So it’s dark and in the tin shed we lived in that means we simply put our bums on the ground and go to sleep. The human is confused and is wondering why we aren’t heading to the coop. He’s now walking around picking up us girls from under pipes, inside milk crates, on top of pallets and wherever it was we plonked down, where we were standing, when it became dark. It would seem he’s tucking us in and putting us in the coop. How sweet. It’s nice in here with this thick bed of sugar cane mulch under us. It is a little bit scary so despite all this space, the girls and I are huddling in a giant chicken pile in the corner.

Goodnight Diary. It’s been an epic day and it’s time to dream of butterflies and chomping down on them. I hear that some humans give their chickens names. I can’t wait to find out mine. I’m sure it’ll be something exotic like Jasmine or Scarlet (I am a redhead)!