Are backyard chicken eggshells really thick/strong?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by jewel1, Dec 4, 2012.

  1. jewel1

    jewel1 Chirping

    Jun 2, 2012
    I just started getting eggs from 3 of my 4 girls who free-range part of the day when I'm around, and are in the coop for the rest of the day. I was prepared for the fact that the first eggs might come out with weak or non-existent shells. Instead, all three are laying what seem to be indestructable eggs! I have to really smack the heck out of them to get them to crack.

    Now, I have a little feeder with oystershell and was told that they would eat it if they need it (self--regulating). They are plowing through it like crazy (I have to refill often). Do you think they could be overdoing the calcium, or is this normal?

  2. Chick_In_The_Burbs

    Chick_In_The_Burbs Songster

    Jun 26, 2010
    Western Washington
    Oh, if there is oyster shell your girls will give you strong eggs! I actually started just boiling, smashing up and refeeding their own shells back to them in the end. My girls went to town on the oyster shell a time or two and those suckers wouldn't break for no-body!
  3. stevetone

    stevetone Chicken Advocate

    You may find that you have opened "Pandora's Box" with that question. Feed rations seems to be a polarizing topic on BYC.

    My personal opinion is that if you are feeding a decent layer feed, then supplemental calcium is completely optional, as in not needed.

    Yes, hens can OD on calcium. If your flock's eggs are coming out a little "rugged," I'd scale back the free feeding of oyster shell. If you must, give them a managed amount and when it's done, no more for the day.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2012
  4. sumi

    sumi Égalité Staff Member 7 Years

    Jun 28, 2011
    Rep of Ireland
    If you feed a good commercial layer food then you don't need to supplement their diet with oystershell. Like the above poster said, hens can OD on calcium and too much can result in mishappen egg shells. Some people, me included, give their hens flock raiser with oystershell on the side for hens to help themselves. The hens will eat as much of the shell as they need to meet their calcium needs.

  5. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Crowing

    Apr 8, 2008
    Commercial layer feed is a complete feed, and if that's all the birds eat, then they don't need extra anything.

    However, when the birds are outside a lot, they're eating a lot of things that mess up that perfect ration a bit. Most of the year, we find that the eggshells become a bit thin and we supplement calcium. Then, in late fall and winter when there's not much to eat outside and the girls are eating almost 100% later ration, we don't need to supplement calcium.
  6. jewel1

    jewel1 Chirping

    Jun 2, 2012
    Thanks for all the replies. I started giving free-feed oystershell on the side because I hadn't swtiched to a layer feed yet, but could tell some of my flock were getting close to laying. Now 3 out of the 4 are laying with one holdout who isn't even squatting yet...but is getting talkative and eating the oyster shell anyway.

    I switched to the layer feed last that probably means I can stop giving them the oyster shell on the side...or maybe let is go empty form time to time rather than keeping it stocked all the time. Do you guys think they'll really sense when they need it and not OD...or would it be better to ration it a bit with them if they keep guzzling it down?


  7. 1muttsfan

    1muttsfan Free Ranging 7 Years

    Mar 26, 2011
    Upper Peninsula Michigan
    A layer feed does not need additional calcium supplementation. I do supply it, however, and they eat some - they seem to be perfectly able to self-regulate how much they use.

    A grower, finisher, or all-flock one does need calcium offered on the side.

    I found that on Flock Raiser, even with calcium supplementation, the shells were much thinner.

  8. debid

    debid Crowing 7 Years

    Jan 20, 2011
    middle TN
    I've never had a problem with them self-regulating their calcium intake. I leave the oyster shell cup available regardless of whether they are getting all-flock or layer feed. They know when they need it and ignore it if they don't. Sometimes the little cup is full for months, sometimes they empty it in two weeks' time.

    ETA: Unlike the PP, the shells here were not thinner with Flock Raiser. The only time I had a thin-shell issue was with a sick hen. De-wormer solved that.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2012
  9. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Songster

    Aug 19, 2012
    Los Angeles
    Chickens are good at managing their own calcium levels when given the option. With layer feed the calcium is mixed in so they are not able to scale back that amount if they are getting too much. If your hens are all laying well and regularly then the amount of calcium is fine but with mixed flocks, molting birds, old birds, young birds, birds that lay infrequently, roosters (and on and on lol) that amount of calcium in a layer may be too much.

    If they are not needing calcium they won't eat the oyster if it separate. For example, I recently refilled my oyster container but my girls are molting right now and it remains untouched (with a grower feed).

    There are two schools of thought on feeding layers and people have really strong opinions on it. You can either go with the layer and then you really don't need extra calcium. Or you can go with a flock raiser, grower, or game bird feed and do the calcium on the side. There are two main factors to the choice: calcium and protein. Layer feed has calcium mixed in. Other than that is it normal feed with usually around 17% protein. Non layer feeds are available in different protein percentages from 16-24ish. Also any feed can have soy protein or animal protein. I personally have found it harder to find a layer without soy but I live in the city and my local opinions are limited.

    It;s not as complicated as it sounds though. I would read the labels on your feed carefully so you know what you are feeding and decide what you think is best personally.

    I go with a grower + oyster. I have a silkie who rarely lays and in times like this when my girls are molting and are clearly indicating they do not need extra calcium, I am glad it is not in their food. I have one bird that lays thin eggs no matter what she eats (and I have tried lots of variations) but on the whole I have never had thin shell problems and get beautiful thick eggs on the grower feed.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2012

  10. jewel1

    jewel1 Chirping

    Jun 2, 2012
    great advice..thanks to everyone for their input. I'll try a few things over the next few months and see which seems to suit my flock the best. [​IMG]

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