When it comes to keeping livestock, chickens are among some of the easiest. And when it comes to keeping chickens, there are very few things they actually need…food, clean water, shelter/coop (of course), a bit of shade and protection from predators.
But if the chickens you have are egg layers, they have an additional need…high amounts of calcium.
If layers do not get enough calcium, they will lay eggs with thin shells, soft shells, or even no egg shells at all. Yikes!
The cool thing is that if extra calcium is available, they will eat it when they need calcium and won’t eat it when their body has enough. The body’s inner wisdom is amazing!
Now you could buy calcium from the feed store or online, which I have certainly done before. But my favorite way to give calcium to my girls is to feed them their own egg shells.
It is the ultimate recycling program!
The chicken lays the egg, you eat the inside, the chicken eats the outside, she makes another egg, repeat.
So, how exactly do you give them the egg shells?
One way is to rinse the shells after you use them and then put them in your chicken bucket or whatever you use to collect food scraps to feed to them. The problem with this method is that it could potentially lead to them pecking at and eating their own eggs because the shells they get fed look similar to the whole egg shell.
Since I really don’t want my chickens to peck their eggs and would rather just avoid this problem altogether, here is what I do.
After I crack the egg open and use its contents, I take the shell to my kitchen sink and peel the membrane out. Like this.
Sometimes part of the membrane gets stuck. Not a big deal. The point of removing the membrane is just to make it easier to crush later. I suppose you could skip this step entirely if you don’t care about clumpy egg shells, but I like to remove the membrane.
It should look something like this…cleaned out egg shell and membrane removed.
Then I rinse the shell with water and set it upside down to dry. Usually in a bowl under the sink but sometimes this ends up happening.
Some people recommend baking the egg shells to dry them out and kill any bacteria but I think it is a completely unnecessary step. You can if you want to, of course. But I personally don’t.
After I have collected a bowl full, or whenever the calcium bowl in the coop gets low, I take the egg shells and smash them down into the bowl to break them into small pieces.
Sometimes I use a cup or another bowl or a spoon or something because, let me tell you, the edges of those shells are SHARP. Be careful to not hurt yourself! The egg shells should look something like this when you are done.
Then I take the crushed shells and put them in the calcium container in the coop. Done!
The best part is it saves me a trip to the feed store.
Not to mention the cost of actually buying the calcium.
Which is something my pocket-book can definitely get used to!