Can you feed eggshells to hens? Well, I can think of only one reason why not; they may turn to eating their own eggs. It apparently does happen occasionally though we haven't had a problem.
So how do you stop your hens from enjoying a fresh egg for breakfast every day? Our method seems to be working, and it's fairly simple; others make quite a meal of it.
One thing is certain; your laying hens need a lot of calcium; at least the amount in an eggshell every day, plus for their own bones and nutrition.
Just like humans, a chicken starved of calcium will not be healthy. Luckily none of our free range hens seem to have the slightest desire to become couch potatoes; there's no TV in the run. That's the main cause of osteoporosis in humans, not too little of the mineral in the diet; and smoking.
Whilst we're on the subject, did you know that humans who take supplementary calcium are more prone to heart disease? Any excess, not taken up because you're not walking enough, is deposited in the intima, the inner lining of the coronary arteries, and presumably others, causing high blood pressure.
But that doesn't happen if you eat too much calcium rich foods.
But that's not going to happen to our chickens; with the amount of calcium going into an egg a day, there's not much likelihood of an excess in their diet.
The laying mash that we purchase of course has an extra source of calcium for our hens, but we are trying to become self sufficient, and our hens with us.
Can you feed eggshells to hens? Yes, of course, you can, but it needs to be presented in a way that it has no resemblance to their produce.
Or they may want their egg, and eat it, same as we mistakenly enjoy cake; for them never and for us on high and holy days only. Or, we'll both end up with an early demise.
Ours is a very simple process; first wash the eggs, dry them in the sun, and then microwave them. And then crush them.
First the washing process should remove most of the eggwhite, or any yolk that is stuck to the shell.
You don't want them to recognise those shells from the odour of egg and I can assure you their eyesight and sense of smell is very keen.
It's not done rigorously. We just toss them into a bucket, mash them down a bit, with water, and every few days swish it round a few times, rinse again perhaps, and then put them out in the midday sun in a colander.
By mashing them down a bit, they take up less space in the bucket and don't collect water when you are trying to dry them.
Then we toss them into a strongish plastic bag, and microwave them for one minute; that makes the eggshells more brittle, and will help to kill off any salmonella that may be lurking; it's a nasty bug.
Out comes an empty plastic honey bottle and within thirty seconds you have your crushed egg shells. Nothing really could be easier, though it is one more chore to think about.
If your hens are confined, then you have to put the crushed eggs into the run. I wouldn't add it to their regular feed, but in a second eggshell feeder; just any old container.
Our hens range freely in a garden divided into three camps, and I'm considering a fourth; one is where the boss grows her seedlings, and the hens are never allowed to set foot therein obviously. The other two have compost heaps, so that's where I dump the shells.
Since the hens are rummaging most of the day around in the compost heaps looking for worms and other tiny creatures, they soon find the eggshells. And make no mistake, they know what's good for them.
So, in our case, there's not the slightest connection between the nesting boxes, the food they get in the run, and the eggshells; we haven't had a problem with hens tucking into their own eggs.
Every now and again, an eggshell has obviously had a peck, but no damage is done.
In total, perhaps it's five minutes work, twice a week; not too onerous.
I crushed these with a plastic honey bottle; actually they now go into the blender.
Happy hens take a mud bath regularly!
No one was more astonished than I when I opened the roost this morning to find an impatient hen had laid her egg and it had dropped more than two feet without breaking. Can you feed eggshells to hens and is it effective? Without a doubt!
Prior to this the eggshells went straight into the compost heap which was fine unless the egg had been boiled. Cooked, they don't seem to decay. Then for a period they went along with all the other kitchen slops into the wonder of worm farms.
These are best chicken feed; a wonderful source of protein for them.
Becoming self sufficient has been one of the most satisfying things I've ever strived to achieve. We've succeeded with our solar power generator, and rainwater harvesting, free range cage free eggs, fruit and vegetables.
Making the birds self sufficient has meant fussing with can you feed eggshells to hens, growing corn for them, and of course the worm farms for protein.
This year we'll have a huge crop of broad beans; they are the best vegetable source of protein at 25%; we just have to figure out to make them palatable. Luckily the hens leave the plants alone.
How to plant broad beans has been a big step forward for us; they are simple legumes to grow compared to chickpeas and lentils, and we're hoping they make great chicken food; find a protein source where they won't also decimate the plant, like ordinary green beans and peas, has been a mission.
The hens absolute favourite food after the worms is our stale 100% wholemeal bread. We add a vegetable protein in the form of our homemade authentic hummus recipe to lower the GI, and the hens behave as though it's Thanksgiving!
You can choose a chicken tractor design; each has its strengths and weaknesses. Our hens range freely, but periodically have to be confined to quarters; then can you feed eggshells to hens? Will they start eating their eggs?
Initially we only fed the hens eggshells by tossing them into the compost heap. I've heard of folk having to get rid of the whole flock because they started eating their own eggs. But now that they have been through the blender, they just go in with their feed; and they eat the lot.
But this confining of the flock to our chicken tractor design is really only a short lived thing; soon they are out and about once the seedlings have settled in. Mark I was too heavy to move about freely.
From Longbourne farm you have another slant on feeding eggshells to chickens.
Bernard Preston is a semi retired chiropractor with a passion for all things green; it's all about preserving the planet for our descendants, and ourselves from the curse of modern food processing and farming methods. Can you feed eggshells to hens came up when we had a few laid with no shell. They like all females including humans have a prodigious need for calcium.