Diatomaceous earth (DE) is one of the most useful products you can have at your homestead, small farm, or even around the house. That might sound like a pretty bold statement, but if you’ve never heard of DE and its wide range of uses, you’ve been missing out.
Diatomaceous earth facts
In a nutshell, DE is a natural product made up of the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms. The diatoms found in diatomaceous earth are actually skeletons that are made up of silica, a compound abundant in nature that makes up about 59 percent of the earth’s crust. Composed of the cell walls/shells of single-cell diatoms, it easily crumbles to a fine powder.
The reason that DE works so well for killing bugs that can be a nuisance to your livestock, in your vegetable garden, and even to your kids is that the dust is scratchy, so when insects with exoskeletons (hard outside shells) are exposed to it, it cuts through that protective layer, causing the bugs to eventually dehydrate and die.
Amazingly, however, the internal use of diatomaceous earth by livestock, poultry, and humans can be very beneficial, even though the material is deadly to many insect pests. There are currently more than 150 pesticide-related products registered for use both indoors and outdoors that contain DE.
Additionally, there are thousands of non-pesticide, food-grade diatomaceous earth products used on the skin, food, and supplements or medications.
Here are 20 ways/places you can use diatomaceous earth around your homestead to make life a little better.
Note that since many of these uses involve you or your animals ingesting diatomaceous earth, always purchase products labeled as “food grade,” which are widely available at farm or hardware stores and other retail outlets, including many online sources. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully on the package label.
Chicken Dusting Areas
A little diatomaceous earth sprinkled in areas where chickens take their “dust baths” will help rid them of lice, mites, and other nuisances that can cause them problems. As mentioned before, the tiny silica particles are very sharp and cut into the exoskeletons of many nuisance insects. Since chickens already take daily dust baths for this very purpose, simply add a little diatomaceous earth to their normal bathing area.
Hen Nest Boxes
Small nuisance bugs like to hang out in hen nest boxes, which causes hens to be uncomfortable and, consequently, lay fewer eggs. Sprinkle a little DE over the straw, wood chips, or whatever bedding you use in your nest boxes and mix it around a little. Once your hens and nest boxes are free of mites and other pests, they’re less likely to become infested again.
Livestock Bedding Areas
Fleas, mites, and other pests can negatively affect your hooved livestock as much as they do your chickens. Since we began sprinkling some diatomaceous earth in our sheep’s bedding area, they’ve suffered far less from insects than they did previously. You can even sprinkle a little on their backs if you want them to benefit from it faster. Diatomaceous earth can be used similarly for goats, cattle, and horses.
Livestock Food Preservation
Mixing DE in with your chicken, sheep, goat, and cattle feed can kill any insect pests that might get into the bin and eat it or even render it inedible for your animals. It greatly improves the flowability and mixability of animal feed. DE can absorb any moisture that might get in your feed, helping to avoid spoilage and mold growth.
When sprinkled on the floor of your chicken coop after you’ve cleaned it, diatomaceous earth can be effective in keeping mites, lice and other pests commonly found there at bay. When used in that manner, DE also absorbs bedding moisture, making a better environment for your hens, and it even controls odor, which can become a problem, especially during the hot summer months.
Bugs In The Feed-Storage Area
Feed-storage areas are famous for drawing roaches and other unwanted bugs, causing infestations that can be difficult to eradicate. Diatomaceous earth is deadly on roaches, so sprinkle it around storage bins, feed sacks, or whatever container you use. We had lots of pesky bugs in the area where we store our scratch and laying pellets, and a little DE sprinkled around cleared them out quickly.
Roaches In The Barn
Just as DE can be used to clear out roaches and other unwanted bugs in your feed-storage area, it can be equally effective in your barn, regardless of how you use it. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around bedding, hay bales, feed sacks, and other items that might draw bugs. Concentrate on wet areas, dark corners, and the bases of walls for maximum success at pest control.
DE can even work its deadly magic on those overly annoying flies we all loathe if they come into contact with it. Some organically inclined farmers and homesteaders even believe that flies avoid areas where they spread DE, so killing them isn’t even necessary. They often sprinkle DE in wet areas or areas with lots of manure, like sheep night pens or chicken runs, to keep flies away.
Livestock Gastrointestinal Parasite Control
Diatomaceous earth can kill internal parasites as effectively as it does external ones. Sprinkle a little in your chicken, sheep, goat, or cattle feed to help keep worms and other internal parasites under control. A study in the Oxford Journal of Applied Poultry Science proved DE’s potential effectiveness. Again, always choose DE labeled as “food grade” when using it for any internal applications.
Diatomaceous earth can keep unwanted insect pests off your potted plants, too, along with providing another benefit for such plants. Diatomaceous earth tends to retain water and nutrients in the soil, and its porosity helps the soil drain well. Just mix a handful of DE in with your soil before planting, then sprinkle a little on the foliage afterward to solve two potential problems at once.
Diatomaceous earth can really shine protecting tomatoes, squash, and other vegetables if you don’t like to use toxic pesticides around your edibles. Dusting DE in the garden will help eradicate common garden pests such as aphids, ants, earwigs, slugs, and many more, saving crops in the process. It can also be effective at ridding your flower garden of similar unwanted pests.
Note: DE can harm bees, so avoid using it on flowers as well as stems and leaves if you see bees on them. Apply it early in the morning or in the evening since bees are quiet then. Since bees are airborne, it’s generally safe to put DE on the ground.
Increased Eggshell Strength
Along with killing internal and external parasites, DE can make eggshells harder when mixed with laying pellets or crumbles, thereby reducing breakage during gathering and transport. The study conducted by Oxford also showed that hens that were fed DE laid more eggs than those not fed the substance and that the eggs of the DE-fed hens also had larger yolks.
Clean Up Messes
The absorbent nature of diatomaceous earth makes it ideal for cleaning up various messes, especially those of the wet variety. Just sprinkle some on leaked hydraulic fluid, motor oil, or other spills, and its porous nature will ensure that it absorbs most of the liquid. This feature of DE is why it’s commonly used in such products as cat litter.
Many people use DE as a detoxifying agent. Common practice is to take about one teaspoon of food-grade diatomaceous earth each day in a glass of water for about a week. The DE can help you maintain optimal gut health by attracting harmful toxins and flushing them from the body. My parents have done this for years and, in all honesty, are the healthiest 70- and 80-somethings I know.
Many forms of silica exist in nature, and a study in The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging stated that compelling data supports a wide variety of beneficial effects from consuming more silica, like DE, in water. Silica is an essential mineral for the human body to build strong bones, nails, teeth, and hair, and it carries calcium to other parts of the body.
Indoor Flea Control
DE can be used to rid your indoor pets of fleas and then keep them from returning. Just sprinkle a little on your dogs or cats and rub it into their fur. Fleas that come into contact with diatomaceous earth will quickly be covered in it and won’t last long. Sprinkle a little in your pet’s beds to ensure that you rid those areas of fleas, too.
Some people use diatomaceous earth for rodent control. DE isn’t poisonous to rats and mice, but rodents apparently hate the smell of peppermint and lemon essential oils. Make a mixture of about a cup of diatomaceous earth with 1/8 cup of water and a few drops of essential oils, and place the mixture where you see rodents. Many people swear the mice or rats will be gone within hours.
Bedbugs have become quite a problem for many people, and fighting them can be an uphill battle. DE is deadly to bedbugs, yet unlike many chemicals, it won’t harm children or pets. Silicas like DE have been used for small-insect control for more than 50 years because they safely produce an electrostatic charge that helps them adhere to insects that come into contact with them.
Indoor Cockroach Control
These nasty bugs are attracted to any food left around and can quickly expand from a few to a bunch if not taken care of immediately. First, thoroughly clean your home and dry up any damp areas. Then, sprinkle DE anywhere you have seen cockroaches, including around the house along the foundation and around kitchen cabinets. Dust lightly, as roaches will avoid the diatomaceous earth if it’s too heavily applied.
If you don’t mind having microscopic fossils in your mouth, diatomaceous earth can even be used for whitening stained teeth. DE is used as a mild abrasive in some toothpaste, so those who make their own toothpaste can add a little to their baking-soda recipe for a little better scrubbing.
As you can see, DE is great to have at hand in your homestead since it can help you get rid of a lot of problems. It’s a wonderful product, and I recommend using it whenever you have the chance.
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