When I first got chickens I didn’t even know that they needed calcium. I knew literally nothing about chickens except that they were cute and I needed them. Everything else I just learned along the way. In fact, I had chickens for nearly five years before I started feeding my chickens baked eggshells.
Why Do Chickens Need Calcium?
Chickens have bones that need calcium just like humans do! Calcium in their diet will help them to grow strong and help them to have a long life. The other reason that they need calcium is a little more obvious- their eggs. Each eggshell is made of calcium. That means each egg that is produced requires the chicken to have enough calcium in their diet to form the hard shell.
How Much Calcium Do Chickens Need?
Chickens need 4-5g of calcium each day. Honestly, if you are feeding your chickens a complete layer feed they may be able to get enough calcium from their feed. It would be very important for you to analyze the ingredients in their feed though. We tend to get our feed from a local mill and it’s hard for me to see if they are getting enough calcium. If you are unsure, giving them extra calcium will not hurt them. They tend to know what they need and will either choose to eat the calcium or not.
Oyster Shells or Eggshells?
When I first started supplementing calcium for my chickens I started with oyster shells. It was honestly the only thing I knew. They had it at the feed store and it seemed easy enough. As I got more involved with the homesteading community I learned more about chickens. I realized that I didn’t need to be buying all that oyster shell calcium. It was cheap enough but it was even cheaper to use eggshells. After all, it’s one of the best types of recycling there is! They are just as nutrient dense as the oyster shells too so they work just as good. Bottom line, no matter which you choose it is a good choice. The other thing that turned me away from oyster shells is that there was a shortage recently. The homesteading community wasn’t immune to the supply chain disruptions caused by the 2020 pandemic. It’s always good to have a couple different methods in your back pocket to make sure that no matter what your animals will get what they need.
We save all of our eggshells in a bag beneath our sink. If you do them in a smaller bag and feed them fairly regularly they won’t get smelly. If you do a large bag and fill it for months they will be pretty gross and may get smelly. There is always still a little egg left in the shell that can get a rotten smell to it. That is also why you should bake the egg shells. Leaving the egg in there and feeding it to the chickens could cause them to eat their own eggs. However, if you bake them it dries the whites left in it and gives it a different “flavor” so to speak. It’s also important to crush up their eggshells as well. This way they don’t look like full eggs either and also works to prevent them from eating their own eggs.
Directions to Bake
Here is what I do when I’m ready to bake them and feed them.
Turn the oven on to 350.
Line a baking sheet with tin foil or parchment paper (we get ours from Azure). This is optional but I prefer it because it helps me to crush them when I’m done plus makes for easier clean up.
Bake the shells for 30-45 minutes. I’ve left them in the oven for over an hour at a time and it doesn’t really do much to them.
Remove from the oven and let cool.
Crush them up and feed them to the birds.
It’s a super simple process. I don’t love the smell of them while they are baking, it just smells weird to me. My husband thinks that they smell good while they are baking though so take that for what you will.
You can also store them for as long as you need after they are baked. Once crushed, throw them in a bag and feed as needed. I prefer to do mine in slightly larger batches so we tend to store them for a while before using. It’s a constant process around here. I can honestly say we almost always have eggshells somewhere around our house.
With proper calcium in their diets your chickens will be laying regularly and have good shell quality. Feeding chickens baked eggshells helps them have a proper diet so their eggs taste better too!