Using DE (Diatomaceous Earth) for mite prevention on your chickens sounds like a good thing, right? After all, it’s a natural substance and it seems innocuous to anything else. But did you know that it can seriously affect the bee population, sometimes killing them too? Really, even though the canister says so, very few insecticides can actually target just one or two insects. If it is killing one, it is probably killing many more. DE becomes airborne, floating to all corners of your garden and can affect anything that uses, well, air.
So what can we use? We raise our chickens with the greatest of care and so any substitution will have to be a good one. And boy do I have a great one for you: Wood ashes. Yep. Mites don’t like it and won’t come around. If you can, save your fireplace ash (no BBQ coals, etc) for mixing up a dust-bathing pit and let the chickens do the rest. Here’s how…
We know that chickens love and need to dust bathe, so I provide them with wood ashes and sand for bathing. We add sand because it helps to weigh down the ashes. I use it on the floor of the chicken coop, but I’m sure that dry soil would work, too.
This pile of ashes is what is left from all of the wood that we burned last winter. With only 9 chickens, we don’t need much. A couple of heaping shovels…
…and a shovel full of sand. The recipe is 2 (maybe 2 1/2) parts ashes to 1 part sand and mix well.
Since chickens poop everywhere, you must keep it raked* so they’ll continue to use it. Replace as needed.
If you don’t have a place to store wood ash, then store just a bucketful. Use it sparingly by simply dusting your chickens with a handful each month. (Sprinkle under the feathers.) Stick to your cleaning schedule for changing the bedding, cleaning the perch and raking the run, and everything should be okay.
Use it as a treatment for mites, too. First, take out all the bedding in the coop and scrub down everything with soapy water. Dust each chicken with ashes, and replace the bedding.
*Tip: We have since built a makeshift sandbox (of sorts) and that seems to help it stay poop-free longer. They go in, they bathe, they get out.
We’re well into year #2 now, and the hens still love and use it all the time… no health issues so far. What do you think about using wood ashes?