Bird Foods and Diatomaceous Earth

A bird's caretakers can add diatomaceous earth to the bird's diet.
A bird's caretakers can add diatomaceous earth to the bird's diet. (Image: Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

Diatomaceous earth can be a powerful diet additive for birds. Known for its desiccant effects, diatomaceous earth is a relatively inexpensive pest control method. Regardless of what a bird's owners choose for his dinner, diatomaceous earth can provide a safe, natural way to cleanse a bird's system of potentially harmful parasites and promote his health.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is an abrasive, porous sedimentary rock that can be crumbled into a fine, white powder. It is composed of the remains of diatoms, tiny hard-shelled microorganisms, according to the Spokane County Extension of Washington University. When the silica remnants of the diatoms accumulate, diatomite is formed. Diatomite's mild abrasive qualities have made it valuable as a toothpaste or polishing agent, as well as beauty products. It has been used as an ingredient in dynamite. Because there are different grades of diatomaceous earth available for purchase, consumers should read warning labels and only use the product for its intended purpose.

Benefits of Consumption

Food-grade diatomaceous earth is safe for consumption by most household pets as well as their human caregivers. Diatomaceous earth may be used as a pesticide both topically and internally. Mixing bird seed with diatomaceous earth can rid a bird's system of parasites that may harm it, and as it is nontoxic, birds will not be harmed by the ingestion. Bird owners may choose to offer diatomaceous earth free-choice to the birds. The daily use of diatomaceous earth can provide birds with trace minerals important to their health. Diatomaceous earth helps absorb odors associated with bird droppings, according to the website Agrasilica.

Pest Control

Diatomaceous earth is a natural pesticide that in most instances is not harmful to people or pets, according to professor Stuart B. Hill of McGill University, Quebec. It is a desiccant, or drying agent, and can rupture the outer exoskeleton on such pests as fleas or ticks. Pet birds or poultry may enjoy a dust bath in it, helping to rid themselves of lice or mites or it can be used in nesting boxes. When sprinkled on a mite-infested bird, diatomaceous earth helps kill the infestation and start the growth of new feathers quickly. It also may be used as a grain protectant, discouraging contamination by insects.

Warning Labels

Although diatomaceous earth is not known to be toxic, if inhaled by pets or people it can be irritating to the eyes and nasal passages, according to the National Pesticide Information Center. Once the dust has settled, pets and people can safely re-enter the treated living space. As there are several grades of diatomaceous earth on the market, bird owners should ensure that they are using only the food-grade instead of that which contains crystalline silica, a substance used to treat swimming pool filters that is a known respiratory hazard.

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