No one knows whether the chicken or the egg came first, but we do know that eggshells are a superfood for laying hens. Saving and recycling your hens’ own eggshells is a natural and inexpensive way to provide additional calcium for the hens in your flock.
Chickens can eat eggshells, and they are a valuable source of calcium. Egg shells are easy to dry and can be provided as a free-choice supplement to hens older than six months. To prevent chickens from associating freshly laid eggs with food, crush the eggshells before offering them as feed.
Many poultry owners are reluctant to give their chickens eggshells as they believe it may encourage egg eating. Fortunately, there is an easy way to overcome this challenge, and hens will benefit from regularly adding calcium-rich eggshells to their diet.
Are Eggshells Good For Chickens?
Each time a hen lays an egg, it uses valuable supplies of calcium to produce a strong eggshell. To remain healthy and continue laying for as long as possible, hens benefit greatly from a calcium-rich supplement, like eggshells.
A study published by the National Library of Medicine demonstrated that calcium intake directly affected egg quality. Although the research focused specifically on aging hens, it was found that increasing the calcium intake resulted in thicker, stronger eggshells, even in older birds.
Two of the best sources of calcium for chickens are oyster shell grit and eggshells. For poultry owners, it makes sense to go with the free eggshell option as you already have the raw materials available, and crushing it is quick and easy.
Laying hens, whether free-range or cooped, benefit greatly from a permanent free-choice feeder containing crushed eggshells. While eggshells must never replace a balanced chicken feed, they can be a valuable calcium supplement for your flock.
How To Feed Chickens Egg Shells
To provide your chickens with a calcium-rich eggshell supplement, all you need is a supply of eggshells. Save your own and ask your friends and family to save their eggshells too. Empty eggshells can be stored in a container in the refrigerator until you are ready to collect them.
The quickest, most straightforward method to process eggshells into a form to feed to your chickens is simply to dry them. There is a lot of information around about first heating them in an oven or cooking them in a microwave, which can work, but isn’t necessary.
A less time-consuming and cost-effective method to dry eggshells is to lay them on a baking tray in the sun. Even a warm windowsill will do. Chickens don’t need eggshells to be dry before they eat them. The benefit of drying the eggshells is that the membrane inside the shell dries out, which makes them easier to crush.
There is no need to pulverize your dried eggshells to reduce them to powder. They only need to be mashed until they are the size of rolled oats. Like your other dry food, your stock of dried, mashed eggshells can be stored in a plastic container or glass jar.
Chickens know when they require calcium and will eagerly help themselves if they have a supply available. Mixing it in their feed or hiding eggshells in their treats is not a good idea, as they may not all have the same calcium requirements.
Eggshells or oyster shells should be provided in a permanent, free-choice feeder away from their regular feeders. That way, the hens that need additional calcium can help themselves, while younger birds and roosters will be able to skip it. Check the feeder regularly and top it up when it runs low.
Should You Give Egg Shells To Your Chickens?
Anyone with egg-producing hens should provide a supply of either crushed eggshells or oyster shells. This will ensure hens have enough calcium to produce strong-shelled eggs without leaching this essential element from their bones and compromising their health.
To avoid any possibility of hens associating eggs with food, most poultry owners crush the eggshells into tiny pieces. That way, your flock will get the calcium they need without ever knowing they are eating their own eggshells.
How Do You Dry Eggshells To Feed To Chickens?
If you live in a dry climate or have a sunny windowsill, drying your eggshells is as easy as spreading them out in a single layer until the membranes inside the shells are dry. A baking tray works well, even if you don’t dry them in an oven, since you can spread the eggshells out neatly.
You can also dry eggshells in a warm oven or microwave them until they are brittle. Although there is no need to dry them before feeding them to your chickens, it does make crushing them a lot easier.
What Age Can You Feed Chickens Egg Shells?
Hens only need an additional eggshell supplement from around six months of age. While the actual point of lay (POL) differs between birds, for most breeds, that is when you can start expecting to find the first few eggs in the laying boxes.
Keeping the crushed eggshell supplement in a separate free feeder is always a good idea rather than mixing it with their regular poultry mix. Some birds in the flock may not crave it, while others may be too young to need it.
Too much calcium during a young fowl’s growing phase can result in health problems. That is why you should never feed laying mash to young chicks or grower mash to laying hens. The amount of protein and calcium in each is formulated to meet a chicken’s specific requirements at each stage.
Can I Give My Chickens Store Bought Egg Shells?
There is a lot of debate about whether it is safe to feed store-bought eggs shells to your backyard flock. Some poultry owners are concerned harmful bacteria may be carried on the eggshells and infect their chickens.
Store-bought eggs in the United States undergo a rigorous cleaning process, which includes washing in warm water and the application of a chemical sanitizer.
If you are concerned about feeding your chickens eggshells from other sources, layer them on a baking tray, and dry them in an oven set at 350F for 10 minutes. Baking them will eliminate any bacteria that could be lurking on the eggshells.
Why Do Chickens Eat Eggs?
No discussion about feeding chickens eggshells would be complete without addressing the elephant in the room. Egg-eating is one of the most challenging poultry behaviors to correct, so feeding them eggshells may seem like it could encourage the bad habit.
Although there can be multiple causes for egg eating, including boredom, overcrowding, and stress, calcium deficiency is by far the most common cause. Hens are simply trying to increase their calcium intake, so providing them with crushed eggshells is often part of a workable remedy for this unwanted behavior.
Can Chickens Eat Eggs?
Anyone with a flock of hens knows the excited anticipation of awaiting the arrival of the first egg. But after a while, we often find ourselves inundated with a supply exceeding the number of eggs we can use each week.
There are many ways to preserve eggs, but if you are overwhelmed by the supply from your backyard flock, there is an effective win-win solution. Scramble any extra eggs you have and give them back to your chickens!
While it is not advisable to feed your chickens raw eggs as it could result in egg-eating, a quick trip through a frying pan, and your flock can safely enjoy the disguised protein-rich snack loaded with Vitamin A, E, and beta carotene. Scrambled eggs are actually recommended for any chicks or birds that look poorly.
Eggshells as they are a valuable source of calcium which is an element that is often lacking in the diet of laying hens. Feeding eggshells to chickens is an inexpensive dietary supplement that can replace oyster shells. Saving, drying, and mashing eggshells before offering the mixture back to the flock in free-choice feeders is the best way to ensure it is only consumed by birds that need it.