Hi Teila ....
About the soft shells. A while back, ( can't find it now ) Fancychooklady, mentioned to me the benefits of calcium carbonate ( for soft shell laying chickens ) - which I ultimately could not find out here in the sticks. So I opted for simple calcium powder that is mainly fed to horses.
Gave her ( on advice from the Stock and Produce merchant ) 1 flattened dessertspoon of that twice a week for 3 weeks, and it did the job. I then reduced the dosage to 1 teaspoon twice a week for 2 weeks - and she has laid well formed eggs ever since, except for one disaster, which I blamed on her dirty bottom. It may have stuck there, and she dropped it from a greater height. She ate the yolk of that one which was harder shell broken, more than a soft jelly like shell - ( several days back now ). So back she goes, onto the powdered calcium - probably 2 teaspoons twice a week for the coming week ( in a mix ). Will think on that.
I did however, clean her dirty bum ---- ( oh ye Gods ) with really warm water, a pair of scissors, and a couple of well aimed 'plucks' which does not bother them at all .... and she is kind of bare bottomed at present, although has cleverly arranged her other feathers to cover the bare patch, and keep her warm !!! .......AND she has laid 2 firm, well developed eggs since. Her egg shells are most often like bricks to break open for use. !!
My rule of thumb would be if a chicken continually lays and strains on soft shells ... then something has to be done. As Fancy pointed out, calcium carbonate is best - and if you can get it, well and good. Not for over-use or use for a long period of time though, from memory. Their food should give them enough calcium, however, if they gorge themselves on dirt pickings / insects etc. while free ranging, I figure they might not always get what they need. Which is why my girls free range for only a small time of any day - about 2 > 3 hours only ( weather permitting ).
They pick at dirt and heaven knows what in their run anyway, but not enough to fill them up. They always eat and drink before bed.
Glad to know that Kiki and Blondie have been broody broken ( for how long ??? ). I do hope for a long time - for your sake. !!
Enjoyed your ovation - that you like hearing of my girls 'chickenalities'.
Edited by satay - 1/26/16 at 11:37am