Egg Shells to Egg Shells

Laying hens need calcium to form all that good strong eggshell, almost one shell a day! That’s a lot of calcium! You can give them ground oystershell, it’s very good stuff, but I can’t find it locally and ordering it is pretty expensive. Instead, I grind up the old eggshells and feed them back to the hens.

There’s something undeniably uncomfortable about feeding hens their own eggs, and surely it’s not as nutritionally superior as oystershell, but it’s common practice with apparently no deleterious effect. And of course much cheaper and ‘closed loop.’ I think if chooks have access to good outside ground (not just a few square feet of destroyed dirt) everything becomes less critical, they can forage to fill any gaps. Bugs must be chock full of calcium, right? Not to mention loads of other goodies.

At any rate, I keep an old paper flour bag on the counter for eggshells. When it gets full, all you have to do is smunch the bag to crush them down loosely, then keep filling. (As you are cracking the shells initially, don’t stack them into egg towers, as I used to do. Keep them more or less in singles so that the residual eggy goo can dry instead of rot. This also helps them to crush easier.) When the bag gets a good stock of semi-crushed shells, I take a rolling pin to it. Some rolling, some bashing. Like making bread crumbs. The kids love to help.

I’ve never been clear on how fine the shell needs to be. I have taken it down to almost sand like, but I’m pretty sure that was unnecessary, and a hell of a lot of work. They eat rocks, right? Probably their internal burr grinders can handle bigger pieces of shell. I have settled on taking it to about quick-oat size. Which is still plenty of work, and may still be quite unnecessary. Anyone know the answer here? Feel free to chime in.

After the rolling pin gets old, I take the bag outside onto the concrete patio and bash it with a brick a few times. That seems to finish the job.

I nailed a tuna can to the wall inside the coop for the ground shell, and we keep a yogurt container outside for re-filling from. That’s one of the 4yo’s jobs. These hens don’t seem to eat near so much of it as my hens in Alaska ate, and I suspect it has something to do with this:

This is what they call “gravel” around here, not the sticks part, but the shell part. The entire chook yard looks like this. Might be the whole of what this crazy city is sitting on. I’ve even seen crumbling concrete structures, revealing a filling of this “gravel,” like modern fossils. Anyway, whatever dirt goes along with all that shell must have quite a bit of calcium, nay? So my ground up egg shells may be redundant.

But we keep filling up the can anyway. Can’t hurt right?

[post script: based on some of the comments on this post, I stopped working so hard at this task. Now I just crush them in the bag with my hands and throw them into the chook yard all at once, with some pieces still as big as pennies. Seems fine. They trample them up smaller and eat them over time I guess. Our ladies still lay good strong eggs, so I’m gonna stick with the easy way.]

6 thoughts on “Egg Shells to Egg Shells

  1. What spoiled chickens you have! ;)
    Seriously, I just let my egg shells dry out, haul ’em out to the coop, and crunch each one up in my hand before I throw it out like scratch on the ground. Seems to work okay. I don’t think you need to go to nearly so much trouble to make sure they’re in small bits (unless you want to, of course!).
    Just my two cents, for what it’s worth.

  2. Let me begin by saying that I don’t have chickens yet and I’m a novice, but I just read in a book that it’s good to crush the egg shells as much as possible to discourage them from beginning to cannibalize their own eggs. If they look too much like eggs they’ll start eating the ones in their nest, supposedly.

  3. How Wonderful you are that you can switch from disturbingly insightful and profound, to usefully practical, dirt and all. Just wonderful.

  4. I used to just give our chickens the whole shells I had put in the leftover food/compost bucket I gave to them. They pecked them and they eventually disappeared. We did give them oyster shells too.

  5. I put my store bought egg shells in a saved bread sack, sometimes doubled. Then when dry, bash them down about like you do. Then I sprinkle them on the ground all around the sidewalks and patio. No more shiny slimy slug trails.

    When I can afford the good, farmer’s market eggs, those shells go in the compost pile. Maybe odd, but somehow those seem too good to waste on the durn slugs.

  6. Brenda, oh what a good idea for snail control… I’ll have to do that!

    CJ – I generally just hand-mash my egg shells whenever I get a chance, and I send the kids down to throw them in. The other job my kids have is finding snails and feeding them to the hens. They LOVE those snails!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s