Things You'll Need
Bottle of 55-percent malathion spray
Tub of food-grade diatomaceous earth
One-cup food scoop
Sieve or flour sifter
Many parasites will target a backyard flock, but fleas are some of the most tenacious and difficult to eradicate. Even if you remove them from the chickens themselves, they can still continue living in the coop and reinfect your birds. Fortunately, there are methods to protect your chickens not only from fleas, but from other parasites as well.
Remove all floor litter, roosts and nesting material as soon as you spot fleas on your chickens or in your chicken coop. Dispose of them by burning if possible and replace the roosts with clean roosts.
Mix a solution of 4 tbsp. of 55-percent malathion spray to 1 gallon of water. Pour the solution into a squirt bottle.
Apply generous amounts of the malathion-and-water mixture to the bases of walls, the clean roosts, the empty nests, the floor and the ground around the chicken coop, taking care not to contaminate food or water sources.
Use your scoop to apply generous amounts of diatomaceous earth (DE) to the bare floor of the chicken coop once the malathion-and-water mixture has dried. Cover with shavings.
Apply layers of diatomaceous earth in between layers of hay in the nest boxes.
Add a small amount of diatomaceous earth to the chickens' dust bathing area.
Use your scoop to apply a generous perimeter of diatomaceous earth around the chicken yard.
Use your sieve or flour sifter to sprinkle diatomaceous earth into the chickens' feathers.
Wait 10 to 14 days; then repeat as needed. You may have to repeat this process two or three times before you have broken the fleas' life cycle.
Wear rubber or plastic gloves to keep your skin from getting too dry if you scatter diatomaceous earth by hand.
Replace your roosts two or three times per year to reduce the occurrence of parasites.
Mix 5 oz. of wettable malathion powder with 1 gallon of water, if you are using the dry form of malathion to create your solution.
Diatomaceous earth can be harmful if inhaled. Do not apply on a windy day or around small chicks. Wear a face mask for extra protection.
Malathion belongs to the same chemical class as tear gas and sarin. Take care not to contaminate your chickens' food or water with it or use the tablespoon that came in contact with it for anything else.
Nonfood-grade diatomaceous earth, used for filtering and often referred to as "pool grade," is carcinogenic. Do not use anything but food-grade diatomaceous earth, which will be labeled as "Chemical Codex Food Grade."
- West Virginia University Cooperative Extension Service
- UrbanChickens.org: Diatomaceous Earth
- "Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens"How to Stop Termite Damage"; Gail Damerow; 1995
Deanna Baran lives in Texas and is a librarian and former museum curator. Although she primarily writes for children and young adults, she regularly shares her interest in history, gardening, and animal husbandry through her articles.