Feeding eggshells to chickens might sound completely bizarre, but it’s a smart move for their health. Eggshells, often tossed aside, are a treasure trove of calcium. In this post, we’ll explore why these shells are beneficial. We’ll also cover how to feed them safely. Plus, we’ll discuss alternatives like oyster shells.
Let’s go into the benefits of this simple practice. It ensures your chickens get essential calcium without any unwanted habits.
The Eggshell Advantage: Calcium
Have you ever wondered what makes eggshells so special for your chickens? It’s all about calcium. Chickens, especially those laying eggs, need a lot of calcium. Why? Because laying eggs depletes their calcium reserves.
Eggshells are made almost entirely of calcium carbonate. This form of calcium is easily absorbed by chickens. When you feed them crushed eggshells, you’re replenishing the calcium they lose during egg-laying.
Without enough calcium, their eggshells can become thin and fragile. Feeding eggshells to your chickens is like giving them a natural calcium supplement.
Note: Most layer feed has calcium in it. But if your hens free-range extensively and eat a lot of table scraps, they may not be consuming enough feed to get all their calcium, particularly if they are very productive hens.
Improving Egg Quality and Strength
Now, let’s talk about egg quality. When chickens get enough calcium, they lay eggs with firm, robust shells. This isn’t just good for the eggs; it’s good for the chickens too. Thin or weak shells can break easily. This can cause problems like egg binding, a serious health risk for your feathered friends.
Adding eggshells to their diet improves the quality of the eggs. It also promotes the health and well-being of your chickens.
Important: Avoiding the Risk of Egg Eating
Cool! So I can just give them eggshells after I crack them? Nope. In fact, absolutely not. Eggshells and eggs are tasty to chickens. If they figure out what they’re eating, they will start eating their own eggs.
So you have to dry and crush them. You must.
How to Properly Prepare Eggshells to Feed Back to Chickens
- Collecting Eggshells:
- Start by saving the shells from your everyday egg use. It’s best to collect a good number before you begin the process.
- Rinsing the Shells:
- Rinse each eggshell under cold running water.
- Make sure to remove any remaining egg white.
- Drying the Eggshells:
- Preheat your oven to a low setting (around 200°F or 90°C).
- Spread the rinsed eggshells on a baking sheet in a single layer. This allows them to dry evenly.
- Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven.
- Bake the eggshells for about 10 minutes. This step not only dries the shells but also helps to kill any potential bacteria.
- Cooling the Eggshells:
- After baking, remove the eggshells from the oven.
- Allow them to cool completely.
- Crushing the Eggshells:
- Once cooled, place the eggshells in a sturdy plastic bag or between two sheets of parchment paper.
- Use a rolling pin or a heavy spoon to crush the shells. You want to break them into small pieces, but not powder.
- Storing Crushed Eggshells:
- Store the crushed eggshells in a clean, dry container with a lid. This keeps them free from moisture and other contaminants until you’re ready to use them.
How to Feed the Eggshells to Your Hens
How Much Eggshell to Feed: A general rule of thumb is to offer about a teaspoon of crushed eggshells per chicken per day. But, this can vary based on their dietary needs and the number of eggs they lay. High-producing layers may need a little more calcium to keep up with the amount they use in laying. Don’t overdo it; too much calcium can be as problematic as too little.
When to Feed Eggshells: Timing is quite flexible when it comes to feeding eggshells. Many chicken keepers prefer to offer them in the morning. Chickens are most actively foraging and eating then. Chickens can self-regulate and consume eggshells as needed if they’re available throughout the day.
Mix eggshells with their food. One effective way to feed eggshells is by mixing them with the chickens’ regular feed. This method ensures that the chickens consume the eggshells. They eat them along with their usual diet. It becomes a seamless part of their nutritional intake. Simply sprinkle the crushed eggshells over their feed. Another approach is to place the crushed eggshells in a separate feeder or dish. This allows chickens who need more calcium to consume as much as they need.
Observing Your Flock. .Good shell quality indicates that your chickens are getting enough calcium. If you notice any health issues or changes in behavior, consult an experienced chicken keeper.
What if you don’t feel like doing any of this?
If you’re hesitant about feeding eggshells to your chickens, there are other sources of calcium.
Oyster shell supplements. These are widely available at feed stores and known for their high calcium content. These supplements are designed for poultry and are digestible by chickens.
Layer feed. For most hens, a specific layer feed (as opposed to a general poultry feed), is enough.
Limestone or Aragonite. These are cheaper than oyster shell. We have never personally used them, but they are an option.
More resources on feeding your flock:
- Pellet vs Crumbles for Your Hens
- Foods to Avoid Feeding to Your Chickens
- What to Do if Your Chickens Start Eating Their Eggs
As you continue your journey in chicken keeping, consider the humble eggshell not just as waste. It’s a valuable resource that closes the loop in your home’s food cycle.