Feeding Eggshells to Chickens: Benefits, Issues, and Tips

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Feeding eggshells back to chickens is a wonderful way to reduce waste on your homestead while providing your chickens with extra essential minerals. There are a few different ways that chicken keepers like to do this… So today, we will explore the benefits of feeding eggshells, the issues that cause people to hesitate, and how to safely feed eggshells to chickens.

Can Chickens Eat Eggshells?

Yes! Eggshells actually provide a great source of natural calcium for chickens. Feeding eggshells back to the flock has several other benefits as well (we will talk about them in a minute). There are also a couple of potential issues that you can run into. Let’s discuss the benefits, potential issues, tips, and steps for feeding eggshells to chickens safely.

empty eggshells drying on a towel

Benefits of feeding eggshells to chickens

There are several benefits to feeding eggshells back to the chicken flock. The most important benefits for me include #1 Additional calcium, #2 Additional trace minerals, #3 Minimizing food waste, and #4 Saving Money/Increasing Sustainability.

 1. Source of Natural Calcium

Laying hens need calcium in order to form strong eggshells. Birds with a calcium deficiency will lay eggs with soft shells that break easily. This essential mineral is also crucial in maintaining healthy feathers and bones. 

Feeding eggshells back to chickens is an excellent way to provide a natural source of calcium to your layer flock.

 2. Improve Digestive Health

Other trace minerals like phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium can also be found in eggshells. These minerals make sure that the nutrients found in the flock’s feed are properly absorbed and utilized. 

 3. Reducing Food Waste

One of my passions is reducing food waste. Although we don’t typically eat eggshells, they are still a byproduct of our food so I don’t like seeing the go to waste. Feeding eggshells back to the chickens is a great way to reuse the part of the egg that would typically be tossed. You can even use eggshells from hatching eggs as long as they come from your flock.

empty eggshells stacked in an egg carton

 4. Saves Money

If you are feeding eggshells back to your chickens regularly, you may be able to skip out on purchasing a bag of oyster shells. This saves cash and makes your homestead a little bit more sustainable.

Potential Issues of Feeding Eggshells to Chickens

There are some people who refuse to feed eggshells altogether. This is usually because they are concerned about turning their hens into “egg eaters” or causing calcium toxicity. However, there are easy steps that you can take to avoid both of these issues.

Egg Eating

Some people believe that feeding eggshells and eggs to chickens will encourage chickens to egg eggs straight out of the nesting boxes. I haven’t experienced this and many other chicken keepers feed eggshells with no issues as well. If you are concerned about this, simply make sure that you crush the eggshells up so they no longer resemble whole eggs. 

Calcium Toxicity

If eggshells (or oyster shells or any other calcium supplement) are mixed in with the chicken feed, the birds can experience calcium toxicity. Chickens usually only eat eggshells if they do not have enough calcium already, but if they are mixed in the feed the shells will be consumed whether they need it or not. Offer the eggshells in a separate bowl from the feed to avoid this. The birds will eat what they need and leave the rest.

How to Feed Eggshells to Chickens

Feeding eggshells is a great way to provide extra calcium to your laying hens, but there are a few steps that you should take to prepare the shells before offering them to the flock. 

Collect > Clean > Bake* > Crush > Serve

Here are my top tips for feeding eggshells and the steps to feed them to your chickens safely. 

clean eggshells drying on a paper towel

Tips for Feeding Eggshells to Chickens

You can just toss whole shells out to your flock… they won’t be mad at you for it, however, there are some things that you can do to improve the effectiveness of feedback. 

Tip #1 Bake and crush the shells

As I mentioned earlier, baking and crushing are not usually necessary. If you are concerned about your chickens becoming “egg eaters”, then you can crush the shells to mitigate the risk. Crushing the eggshells will make them unrecognizable as eggs to the chickens so they won’t equate their new “treat” with the eggs in the nest boxes

crushing eggshells in a bowl with a spoon

Eggshells are baked by a lot of chicken keepers in order to kill potential bacteria and parasites. This step isn’t necessary (but is totally fine to do) if you are feeding eggshells from your own flock. However, if you are feeding shells from another flock or from the grocery store, they should be baked because these shells could contain bacteria and parasites that your flock isn’t used to. 

Tip #2 Feed eggshells separately from the feed

If eggshells (or other calcium supplements) are mixed in with the feed, the chickens can end up with calcium toxicity. Instead, offer eggshells free choice in a separate container so they can take what they need and leave what they don’t. 

Chickens that have a calcium deficiency will eat the eggshells and the birds that have a sufficient amount of calcium (typically) will leave them alone. 

Tip #3 Only offer eggshells to active layers

If you are able to keep the eggshells away from roosters and young birds that aren’t yet laying, then that is best. Don’t feed eggshells to meat birds. This is because birds that are not actively laying eggs don’t need as much calcium and they can potentially get too much calcium from the eggshells.

eggshells in a mason jar lid to be fed to chickens

However, if you have a mixed flock that eats together as I do, then you can offer the eggshells free choice where everyone has access. Calcium toxicity isn’t extremely likely in the roosters and young birds because they typically will only eat eggshells if they need the calcium. If you do notice non-layers eating eggshells, then you might want to consider moving them.

Tip #4 Keep shells in the fridge until ready to feed

You don’t have to prep and feed eggshells every time you cook up some scrambled eggs. That would be a pain. Instead, rinse out the eggshells and place them in a jar in the fridge. Then, when you have a full jar, prepare them how you like and take them out to your flock.

Steps to Feeding Eggshells Safely

Now that we have covered all the eggshell bases, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Here are the simple steps to effectively and safely feed eggshells to your chickens. 

STEP 1: Collect and Clean Eggshells

Collect eggs from your flock (don’t use store-bought eggs or eggs from another flock) and wash them thoroughly. I like to wash eggs with water that is about 20 degrees warmer than the egg. This keeps bacteria from being pulled through the shell and it loosens up anything that may be stuck to the shell. After you crack and empty the eggshells, rinse them out and allow them to dry on a paper towel. Place the dried shells in a jar until you are ready to feed them.

eggs gathered in an orange shirt

STEP 2: Bake the Clean Shells (optional)

If you want to bake the eggshells, spread the washed shells on a cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 5-10 minutes. This step isn’t harmful, but it also isn’t necessary if you are using eggshells that came from your own flock. Baking can, however, accelerate the drying time which makes crushing easier. 

STEP 3: Crush the Eggshells

After the eggshells are dry and brittle, use a mortar and pestle, a rolling pin, or simply a bowl and spoon to crush the eggshells. You can even pop them in the blender for a few pulses. They don’t have to be in tiny pieces… just crushed enough to not resemble eggs anymore.

I’ll be honest, sometimes I toss whole shells back to the chickens and they devour it all in seconds. However, it is best practice to crush them so they don’t get the idea of eating their own eggs out of the nest box

STEP 4: Serve to Your Flock

Offer the crushed eggshells in a dish separate from the main feeder. The chickens will eat what they need and leave what they don’t. 

feeding eggshells to chickens in a mason jar lid

Feeding eggshells to chickens not only provides your flock with a valuable source of calcium but it also increases your homestead’s sustainability. 

By reusing eggshells you can save money, improve the health of your flock, and minimize waste. 

As chicken keepers, it’s your responsibility to provide your flock with a well-balanced diet. Feeding them their own eggshells is a simple and effective way to support their health and happiness.


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