🐓 A tip for chicken keepers and healthy hens: Feed them back their crushed eggshells! I'm sure many of you are already privy to this, but it's worth re-sharing occasionally since there seem to be so many new chicken parents out there lately, which is wonderful to see! ❤
Eggshells are made up of almost entirely calcium carbonate, therefore, laying hens have a huge demand for replenishing calcium in their diet. This is essential - not only to produce healthy, strong shells - but also to help prevent potential (sometimes fatal) side effects from soft or irregular eggs, such as egg binding or soft-shell eggs breaking internally. A good layer feed, insects, and healthy treats isn't enough. Laying hens need to have a separate dish of "free choice" calcium available at all times (not mixed with their feed).
Providing store-bought oyster shells is one calcium option; our girls never liked them. Instead, we save their shells in a bowl in the back of the fridge, and prepare a big batch about once a month. First, we bake the shells on 300F for 5-10 minutes (5-8 if they're already dry, a tad longer if they're still wet) and let cool. Many people do not bake their shells, and simply crush and feed back. We prefer to bake them to help dry out the membrane for easier crushing, to slightly change the flavor/odor of the shells to reduce risk of the girls becoming egg-eaters, and to kill any potentially harmful bacteria present. It's totally up to you! In a bowl, food processor, or in a large reusable ziplock bag with a rolling pin (our preferred method), crush the shells to a consistency of your hens liking. I have seen some folks work it into a finer powder, but our girls seem to like it chunkier (swipe ⬅ to see the finished product). We then store the crushed shells in jars in the fridge, and replenish their little bowls of shells every few days so they are never without. Note: Don't feed extra calcium or layer feed to young pullets that aren't yet of laying age; too much calcium can be damaging to their kidneys.
Don't have chickens? You can still save/crush eggshells and add them to your compost or straight into your garden soil as a great natural amendment! 💪🌿