As chicken owners, one of our top priorities is ensuring that our feathered friends are healthy and well-nourished. Chickens require various nutrients to maintain their well-being and productivity, and calcium is a crucial element, especially for egg-laying hens. In this post, we will explore the guidelines for feeding eggshells to chickens and understand the importance of calcium supplementation in their diet.
Guidelines for Feeding Eggshells to Chickens
1. When to Start
Chickens should start consuming eggshells when they begin laying eggs, typically around 18-20 weeks old. Before this age, they do not require additional calcium, and introducing it too early may not be beneficial.
2. Preparation and Storage
Eggshells should be collected from the coop, cleaned thoroughly, and dried. To eliminate any potential pathogens, it’s essential to bake the shells before crushing them. Crushed eggshells can be stored in a clean, dry container away from moisture until ready for use.
3. Reducing Egg-Eating Behavior
Feeding chickens crushed eggshells is an effective way to prevent egg-eating behavior, which can develop if they encounter broken eggs. By providing a calcium source, such as eggshells, along with a well-balanced diet, you can reduce the risk of this undesirable behavior.
4. Calcium Requirement for Egg Production
Hens need an adequate amount of calcium to produce strong and healthy eggshells. Eggshells are rich in calcium, making them an excellent natural supplement for laying hens.
5. Preventing Waste and Providing Calcium
Feeding eggshells to chickens not only prevents waste but also serves as a sustainable way to provide the necessary calcium they need for eggshell development.
6. No Egg Shells for Non-Layers
It’s important to note that roosters and young chickens that are not yet laying eggs do not need extra calcium supplementation. Feeding them eggshells can lead to an excess of calcium, which can have adverse effects on their health.
7. Calcium Deficiency and Its Consequences
Hens with a calcium deficiency may lay thin-shelled eggs, which are more prone to breakage. Moreover, a lack of calcium can lead to skeletal issues and overall health problems in chickens.
8. Egg Shells as a Supplement, Not the Sole Source
While crushed eggshells can be fed to laying hens as an additional calcium source, they should not be the sole source of calcium. Commercial chicken feeds usually contain an appropriate amount of small particle calcium, and eggshells provide a supplementary boost.
9. Caution with Mixing Calcium Sources
Never mix eggshells or any other calcium source with the chickens’ regular feed. Doing so can lead to calcium toxicity, which can be harmful to the birds.
10. Avoiding Egg Shells from Other Chickens
When providing eggshells to your flock, avoid using shells from other chickens or sources. They may carry unfamiliar parasites or diseases, which can be transmitted to your own chickens.
11. Importance of Shell Grit
In addition to eggshells, it’s crucial to offer shell grit to your chickens. Shell grit, a large particle calcium source, plays a vital role in maintaining eggshell quality.
12. Optimum Eggshell Quality
Studies have shown that a combination of small and large particle calcium sources results in optimum eggshell quality. By providing both shell grit and eggshells, you can support your hens in producing strong and durable eggshells.
13. Access to Shell Grit for Health and Productivity
Laying hens must have access to shell grit throughout their laying cycle. This is essential for their overall health and productivity as they continue to lay eggs regularly.
14. Drying Egg Shells for Safety
Before feeding eggshells to your chickens, make sure to dry them completely. Drying the shells reduces the risk of passing on parasites or diseases to your flock.
Q1: Can I start feeding eggshells to my chickens before they begin laying eggs?
A: It is best to wait until your chickens start laying eggs, which is typically around 18-20 weeks of age, before introducing eggshells. Before this age, they do not require the additional calcium.
Q2: How should I store the crushed eggshells?
A: Crushed eggshells can be stored in a clean, dry container away from moisture. This will keep them fresh and suitable for feeding when needed.
Q3: Can I rely solely on eggshells for my hens’ calcium needs?
A: No, crushed eggshells should be considered a supplemental calcium source. Commercial chicken feeds usually contain sufficient small particle calcium. Offering shell grit alongside eggshells ensures a more balanced diet.
Q4: Can I mix eggshells with the chickens’ regular feed?
A: It’s important not to mix eggshells or any other calcium source directly with the chickens’ feed to avoid potential calcium toxicity.
Q5: Why should I avoid using eggshells from other chickens?
A: Eggshells from other chickens or sources may carry unfamiliar parasites or diseases that could be transmitted to your own flock.
Feeding eggshells to chickens can be a beneficial practice, especially for egg-laying hens that require additional calcium for strong and healthy eggshell development. By following the guidelines provided in this post, you can ensure that your chickens receive the proper nutrition they need for optimal health and productivity. Remember to offer a balanced diet, including shell grit and other essential nutrients, to support your feathered friends throughout their egg-laying journey.