Chickens are a pretty easy hobby to take up, but they are kind of a fly-be-the-seat-of-your-pants when it comes to any hiccups. EVERYBODY has differing opinions on how to do this or how to do that and it seems that trial and error is our method of choice. Since February our chickens have significantly ramped up their egg production. We are averaging a minimum of five eggs per day right now and the girls seem quite content at this pace. (Side note: if you are wondering, eggs ARE still available for purchase. We’d love to unload a dozen or two!)
Well, once the girls got into full swing after a cold winter, we were noticing a problem layer. One chicken’s eggs were coming out deformed and misshapen. About 1 in 10 of her eggs was completely shell-less and just a puddle of the insides.
*This is where you could insert a picture of one of these problem eggs if I had half a brain and had taken a picture. Since I neglected to take the picture – a detailed description will have to do along with a couple of borrowed pictures from the internet.
The shells were either non-existent, weak to the touch (cracking and breaking the second you picked up the egg) or deformed. When I say deformed – think of an egg that is regular is shape and size, but the shell isn’t smooth and uniform. The color would change and wasn’t an even tone of brown. And, the egg would be mottled and chunky down at one end. It was almost as if the chicken’s body was on the right track when she started to make the shell, but couldn’t quite finish it…
Well, we started with a call to our local farm store and talked to the chicken expert. His suggestion was to add a smidgen of apple cider vinegar to their water (makes it easier for them to break down the oyster shells). No luck. Checked with friends. The suggestions including upping their protein intake by feeding them different food and giving them free access to oyster shells (which we already do). Still no luck.
After some scouring of the internet and a good dose of common sense – I came up with my remedy. One of the problems with the chicken is that she is short on the calcium required to make the shell. In theory oyster shells should take care of this, but our chickens abstain from oyster shells. They will not touch them and even if they are in their food – they pick around them. So, we started reusing.
We keep all our shells, rinse them out and then give them back to chickens. They love them!!! After cleaning and drying – they are crushed and thrown back in their pen. The choice to reuse eggshells and feed them back to the chickens is a heated topic in the chicken world. Some people swear that it teaches egg eating. Others swear that it’s the ultimate in “recycling” and gets back to the chickens just what they need. It was worth a try for us and I have to say – it worked like a charm. The other “treat” we have added to their diet is anything dairy. The old cheese and the yogurt remnants get tossed out to them, too!
Directions to prepping and feeding eggshells to chickens
Collect your eggshells.
- Rinse them out after you get the egg.
- We keep ours in the fridge in a plastic bowl until we are ready to use them.
Bake your eggshells.
- Toss the eggshells onto a lined baking sheet. I use a layer of parchment paper.
- Bake the eggshells for 10 to 15 minutes at 425F degrees.
- Allow the eggshells to cool in the oven (and bake for a bit longer).
- Crush your eggshells into small pieces using any method you choose. My choice is a rolling pin. One purpose of crushing the eggshells is to reduce the potential for egg-eating by the chickens.
Serve your eggshells.
I dump the eggshells into one pile in their run, instead of sprinkling them. My theory is that I spent a lot of time prepping them and want to make sure they get them all…