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My chicken has fleas

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before, but Mapp has gone broody again this year. Like every year. Right on schedule. Laying season comes, she squeezes out half a dozen, and then locks herself in her room, screams at everybody and won’t come out for three months.

A couple of times a day, I take her out and put her in the grass and make her eat something. I had a neighbor over this afternoon to gawp at the babies. When I pulled Mapp off the nest, neighbor peered into the nest box and said, “it’s crawling with fleas!” And it was.

Chicken fleas. Who knew?

Time for some diatomaceous earth.

Diatoms, for those who have long ago forgotten middle school life sciences class, are microscopic, aquatic algae with beautiful silicate exoskeletons, like tiny crystal paperweights. (Paperweights! Not very poetic, but I’m going with it).

In some places in the world, old busted dead diatom skeletons have settled together to form a soft sedimentary rock that crumbles into a fine floury powder. This is diatomaceous earth, and it has a number of interesting uses.

One of which is insect control. You can sprinkle it around the chicken house, the perch, the run, even the grass and it will kill tiny bugs. It’s perfectly safe for the birds — in fact, it’s recommended to put up to 10% food grade DE into their feeds for intestinal parasite control — but it’s hell on insects. I’ve heard different descriptions of how it works. Some say it abrades the outside of the bug, causing it to dehydrate. Other say they swallow it and it cuts up their little innards.

Which is why I haven’t used any before. It’s one thing to poison a flea, it’s another to feed your local bugs broken glass and razorblades.

June 20, 2013 — 11:08 pm
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