Your hens provide for your needs daily, so why not let them enjoy their own production as well! Providing your hens with their own free choice eggshells is a perfect way to maintain healthy and happy layers.
A healthy laying hen requires quite a bit of calcium to create eggshells. If she doesn’t intake enough calcium, she will pull calcium from her bones leading to a brittle and unhealthy hen.
Keep reading to learn the benefits of providing free choice eggshells to your layers and how to provide them in a safe and effective way.
which chickens should eat eggshells or oyster shell?
Just your laying hens would benefit from supplementation.
It’s actually dangerous for young pullets to eat too much calcium before they begin laying eggs. And of course, your cockerels and roosters don’t need extra supplementation.
So DO NOT mix oyster shell or eggshells in feed. Provide these supplements in a separate container easily accessible to your adult laying hens. But you don’t have to purposefully block young pullets, cockerels and roosters as they are smart enough to avoid too much calcium.
Did you know?
Chickens will low calcium might lay eggs with soft and pliable shells or eggs without a shell at all! If you notice this as a trend in your flock, provide a calcium supplement for your laying hens.
what about free-range hens?
Chickens are free-rangers at heart. Historically they haven’t always had someone buying oyster shell for their calcium needs.
Free-range hens have a better chance at providing for their own calcium needs by eating dirt.
The same can be said for their grit needs. Chickens don’t have teeth and require grit (small rocks, sand, etc.) in their crop to properly “chew” food. Free-rangers can more easily source this grit for themselves.
But if you’re concerned about their ability to free-range properly or they’re in a small run for an extended period of time, free choice eggshells are a great way to provide for their calcium needs. Chickens can self-regulate their intake.
do the eggshells have to be from your own hens?
Nope, any eggshell from a bird will work!
If you’re using your hens’ eggshells for other projects you can source the same from any other bird! Quail, ostrich, emu, etc. will all work and provide the proper calcium needs for your laying hens.
One caveat, make sure you know the source of those eggshells. Factory farmed hens and their eggs are not healthy. Avoid feeding those to your own flock.
How does this grow sovereignty?
Because of shaky and strained supply chains, the more you can produce from your home for your home is the best avenue. Eggshells can provide many different benefits around the home(stead) but your chickens might benefit the most!
will feeding eggshells cause my hens to eat their own eggs?
I’ve heard this fear quite often and I’ve yet to find it to be true.
More often then not, hens eating their own eggs is due to a under-stimulated or agitated hen. Bored hens will eat their own eggs so give your ladies room to roam and entertain themselves!
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can my laying hens consume too much calcium?
Yes, but this is rare. Chickens are great at self-regulating their food intake and hens do so as well with calcium.
However, if you notice bumpy or rough shells it’s typically calcium deposits due to too much calcium supplementation. These eggs are still perfectly safe to eat.
Check to make sure eggshells or oyster shells aren’t mixed in with their feed and cut down on the free choice supplementation until the eggs are smooth again.
Did you know?
A hen requires 20 hours to create her eggshell! Every 15 minutes, in those 20 hours, 25 milligrams of calcium is required to form a proper shell. In total, she needs 4-5 grams of calcium daily to properly form her eggshell.
if you provide free choice eggshells, do you have to provide oyster shells as well?
You’ll hear both Yes and No on this question. Going forward, I will primarily feed them their own eggshells but have oyster shell as a backup on hand. It’s always good to be prepared!
We inherited, with the homestead, a 5 gallon bucket of oyster shell that we’re still working through. Once that bucket is empty, I will determine whether or not the hens’ production can keep up with their calcium supplement needs.
But we will definitely continue to feed their eggshells to them always.
Our ladies prefer their own shells to the oyster shell!
do you have to bake the eggshells before providing them free choice to laying hens?
Nope! If you’re using a few eggs daily, go ahead and give those crushed eggs to your ladies.
I find the need to bake for hygiene or bacteria purposes to be a little overkill. If the eggs are clean and your chickens are healthy, then the eggs should be healthy enough for your ladies raw.
I mean, have you ever accidentally dropped an egg in the coop around your chickens? It’s a feeding frenzy! They are not thinking twice about the egg mixed with everything on the ground.
If you’re using more than a few eggs a day or the hens aren’t consuming all of it in a day, I recommend storing it. This is my preferred process.
how to prepare the eggshells?
I crush the eggshells up (by hand because it’s fun and satisfying) and freeze them until I have enough for a bulk serving or when their free choice container is almost empty.
My eggshells are pretty clean to begin with because we don’t eat many eggs ourselves. I hard-boil them as treats for the chickens and Juno.
With my process, I do recommend baking them to remove any moisture before taking them to the coop. We want to make sure the eggshells won’t provide a feeding frenzy for flies or moisture for mold growth.
I spread the crushed eggshells on a baking sheet and silicone mat and bake for 20 minutes at 200° Fahrenheit.
Then I store them in a container and dole out as the free choice container in the coop runs low.
Again, if you’re using a few eggs daily then you can skip this baking step. Go ahead and crush up those eggs and give them to your ladies daily. They’ll eat them from your hand! Be sure to pay attention to their eggs to make sure these few eggshells are enough supplementation for their calcium needs. If not, provide an oyster shell choice.
Interested in another treat for your flock?
Don’t miss out on fermenting chicken feed for healthier chickens and cost savings on feed bills!
now if you absolutely hate this idea…
There are so many other uses for eggshells!
- Pest deterrent in your garden! Soft-bodied insects won’t do well with the sharp edges of finely crushed eggshells.
- Art! Dried and cleaned eggshells can hold candles or provide unique décor for your home.
- Seed starting containers! Yes, you can plant a seed in an eggshell and it’ll grow until you can plant it in your garden.
- In homemade toothpaste! Supposedly the calcium in the eggshells will help to remineralize your own teeth.
And these are just a few wonderful uses for your eggshells, a supposed waste product!
summing it up
- provide free choice eggshells to your laying hens to support their calcium needs
- allow your ladies to free-range roam to prevent hens from eating their own eggs
- allow your chickens to free-range roam so they can source their own calcium needs
- mix calcium supplementation into chicken feed
What better way to save money than by allow your hens to provide for themselves!