4 Ways of Using Diatomaceous Earth on the Homestead

There are few things that I would consider ‘miracle’ cures, and while some might beg to differ, I believe that diatomaceous earth (DE) is one of those miracles. Formed from the fossil remains of diatoms, it has been a catch-all for many of our household, homestead, and animal health issues. Using diatomaceous earth on the homestead can be of great benefit to your animals and garden.

Using DE on the Homestead - The Mind to Homestead

Diatomaceous earth most commonly comes in ‘dust form’ and is not a poison. It has been widely used as an insecticide, but not in the same way that man-made insecticides have been used. Insects, when exposed to DE, dry out as it absorbs the oils and fats from the insect’s exoskeleton, making it an effective and safe substance for use in your home, on your homestead, and around your animals.

Though DE is quite safe, there are some cautions. Avoid getting it into the eyes of your animals, or your eyes, as it will cause irritation. Because the edges of DE particles are quite sharp, one should avoid breathing in (or allowing your animals to breathe in) DE that is in the form of crystalline dust (often used in pesticide products). If crystalline DE is breathed in, it can cause shortness of breath and may accumulate in lung tissue or lymph nodes. However, there is another form that DE comes in, called amorphous, which is rapidly eliminated from lung tissue, according to the National Pesticide Information Center. Still, because some crystalline DE can be found even amongst amorphous DE, it is best to avoid a situation where anyone–human or animal–can breath it in.

There are a few types of DE that you can use. Most people use the type that is the white pure food-grade DE, with no additives. This type is expensive, but worth it because it will not harm your pets if they eat it. As a matter of fact, there are benefits to feeding it to our pets!

At our local feed store, we can also purchase a large bag of DE mixed with clay (dark grey pictured above), which is considerably less expensive than the pure variety. I use this type when the DE will not be consumed by an animal.

Using Diatomaceous Earth on the Homestead

  1. As a preventive and treatment for internal parasites: dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens. I love using DE this way—it’s one of the easiest prevention tips we could ever use for protecting and treating our animals for worms. We have had great success with treating one of our rescue cats with a bad case of worms by adding DE to his food for a couple of weeks.
  2. As a preventive and treatment for external parasites. Diatomaceous earth can be sprinkled and brushed into your animal’s coat on a daily basis as a preventive measure against fleas. It can also be sprinkled into animal bedding, where your chickens take their dust baths, and really anything with which your animal’s fur, feathers, or skin will come into contact.

  3. For controlling pests around the homestead. DE can be used in your garden, in your pet’s sleeping area, and for keeping bugs out of specific areas, such as around animal feed, in a patio area, and other places you want to be bug-free. Sprinkle DE into your carpet and leave for a few days to eliminate a flea infestation. Michelle from Simplify Live Love uses it to keep cucumber beetles out of her garden and Jessica Healey from ScratchMommy has used it in a garden battle of epic proportions with some success. For some good information on the pros and cons of using DE, visit Homestead Chronicles’ post on Organic Pest Control – DE and Homemade Bug Spray. Lisa Murano from Murano Chicken Farm has a few great posts on using DE in and around the chicken coop.
  4. For your own health. Many people are doing cleanses, or making their own natural hygeine products. My friend Tessa Zundel of HomesteadLady.com takes DE “with betonite clay to pull toxins and break up gunk.” Melanie Christner of Honest Body uses it to eliminate parasites and heavy metals from her body. Debbie Kelsey of Nanny’s Adventures in Nannyland uses it for an additive to soaps she make for animals, and people, capitalizing on DE’s exfoliation qualities. Jessica Healey of Scratch Mommy has a pretty famous homemade deodorant post using DE in the ingredients list.

What other homesteaders are saying about using DE:

“I use it in livestock feed for parasites and I will also use it after I’ve cleaned the barn with lime. It helps to kill anything that might be there. I’ve tried it around the house foundation for ants but it didn’t work. Borax works best for ants.”
~Diane Hamilton Coe, Peaceful Acres Farm

“…We add a scoop to our chickens’ and ducks’ feed every so often. And we use it on fire ants in their yard because we don’t want poisons in there. And we sprinkle a little in dust bath areas. As a matter of fact we just bought a new 40 lb bag today! We’ve threatened to feed it to our neighbors’ animals when we farm sit because there are tons of flies on their animals!”
~Cheryl Aker Hubbard, Pasture Deficit Disorder

“We have used it for fleas! I simply grab a cat or dog, grab a shake bottle with De in it and rub it down to their skin. It won’t hurt them if they luck it. You just want to be careful not to spray their face as it’s a powder and breathing it in will irritate. I keep an old toothbrush for their faces to brush it it. I just dip the dry brush into the DE and lift the fur so you see skin and swipe it through. Make sure you sprinkle any bedding and carpets in the house or kennel. I’d toss it throughout the kennel after a good sweeping and mopping with neem oil. Let it dry first then powder it up. Be sure to give your pets raw ACV in their water. It’ll help kill off anything and it does extra goodies for their coat. I add DE to their food too.”
~Amanda Honey Rowland of Honey’s Life

” I use DE for everything. I had a friend who had a bad cockroach infestation in her cafe and used it to get rid of it. I use it on my animals and in their food and around my farm, our campgrounds, and in my garden.”
~Valerie Strain Ratliffe, Cottage Making Mommy

Source: Diatomaceous earth general fact sheet

What’s your best idea for using diatomaceous earth on the homestead?

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  1. says

    Hi Kristi,

    I use DE for my chickens when they get “poopy” eggs and in their coop and dust bath. I recently had a bout of lice and I’m working hard to prevent another outbreak. I read on another homestead blog that D.E. doesn’t work internally to get rid of worms because the blogger claimed that it was no longer effective when wet. At first I was bummed but then I asked that if that claim is true, then why does it work to rid my chickens of their “poopy” eggs (meaning they need to be dewormed according to Becky on Becky’s Homestead.) I never got a reply back. Have you heard of DE not being effective when wet? Seems to me that pointy shards of shell would be just as sharp wet in an animal’s innards as they are dry in bedding, or dust baths.

    Heather Z.

    • says

      I would tend to agree with you, Heather. I have heard that it does lose its effectiveness if it gets wet when you have sprinkled around your yard, but I’ve never heard of it becoming ineffective on the inside of an animal because of the wetness. I have heard that DE isn’t an effective dewormer (or bug killer, etc.) at all from some sources, but many attest to its effectiveness on their homestead and with their animals, including myself. I would say that if it works, keep using it!

    • Maggie says

      I put DE in my dogs wet food as a flea preventive and have never had any issues with fleas, so I would say it does work when wet and it doesn’t harm my dog

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