CANABALISM: feeding chickens eggshells

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by MiChickMagnet, Jan 9, 2014.

  1. MiChickMagnet

    MiChickMagnet Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 6, 2014
    Traverse City, MI
    So I am brand new to this whole chicken raising thing, so excuse me if I sound crazy for asking. Is it really a good idea to be feeding chickens egg shells, or worse yet IMO scrambled eggs?

    I have read that you want to break the shell down into small pieces so that it is unrecognizable, but still, is this healthy for the chicken? And what about feeding them scrambled eggs?

    A vegan friend of mine recently made the comparison that eating eggs at all is basically eating a chickens period. I will still happily eat eggs and chicken despite that thought, but is it good for the chickens themselves to eat the eggs?

    Does anyone have anything besides anecdotal evidence that this is a healthy practice?
  2. MiChickMagnet

    MiChickMagnet Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 6, 2014
    Traverse City, MI
    Sorry for the sensationalist title, but I wanted people to read it and get back to me. :D
  3. Shalom Farm

    Shalom Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 23, 2013
    The shell of the egg is made of Calcium Carbonate. A mineral that is found not only in animals, plants, etc. but also rocks and soil. The source of it shows little difference on its source affecting its use in the body. What affects it more is too little or overdosing of minerals and human error.

    The technicals out of the way, chemically, the eggshells are exactly as good of a source as supplemented calcium. Some people prefer to bake the shells to destroy any bacteria from mishandling or older shells. Some feed them raw. Hens will happily eat their own eggs as a natural behavior, not a vice, to eliminate inferior eggs or dead in shell chicks. Chickens will seek out these sources and may eat hatched egg shells.

    So they naturally will pick at the shells on occasion. The breeding of the domestic hen demands more calcium than her wild relative because she lays significantly more eggs. As a result there is far more eating of their own eggs than other wild poultry. This is part of why we supply them with calcium, shells or otherwise.

    Since chemically it is the same, hens do it naturally, and given the demands, feeding shells is okay by me. I prefer to bake mine and crush them so they cover and mix well with the grain. This way they are forced to intake X amount of calcium and then are offered Oyster shell if what I provide is not enough. Often, they eat the oyster shell as well. They don't show a preference, although your hens may or may not prefer one form over the other.

    Chickens do have a sense of taste but it is limited. Chickens do not taste sweetness, but do taste some other flavors. Because of this hens may go to or away from shells. It isn't an indicator that all chickens need to eat or not eat shells. That particular flock has just established a preference.

    I haven't found scientifically backed research or published material without a references that says explicitly that shells are bad. More often, it is the contamination of shells and mishandling that cause shells to be bad.

    So if you'd like to feed shells, try it. Make sure they have a balanced ration. If they do not free range be sure to provide them some things to play with. Boredom and the desire to forage can mean picking at things they shouldn't. Like nests, eggs, toes, etc.

    If you'd prefer not to feed egg shells, Oyster shell is basically the same. Derived from a shell and easily fed. Oyster shell is cleaned, while it is very difficult to clean eggs inside and out.

    Some rules for feeding Shells:
    -clean shells only
    -Fresher the better
    -Do not let shells sit out raw and crushed beyond 2 hrs.
    -Cooked shells can be left for a couple days
    -bake them if possible until they are crumbly
    -Do not use shells from sick hens or new when introducing new birds to the flock.
    - Raw shells spoil because of left over egg contents but provide some additional nutrition, though very minutely.
    - Try a treat of very hard boiled eggs crushed with shell and in a dish for them to eat. I do this with awkwardly shaped eggs
    - It is time consuming. Its much easier to feed oyster shell than egg shell. I happily feed both.


    1 person likes this.
  4. birdbrain99

    birdbrain99 New Egg

    Jan 9, 2014
    I recomend not to, because the chickens may get a taste for egg shells and start eating their own eggs!!!
    1 person likes this.
  5. chad-o

    chad-o Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 4, 2013
    Shalom has said it all! I have had poultry for a very long time and feel secure that everything he said is based on fact not conjecture.
    1 person likes this.
  6. chiknhurder

    chiknhurder Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 8, 2014
    Cass County Missouri
    I feed both shells and eggs to my hens and the love it. Sometimes I'll take older eggs and boil them all up, crush them and feed them to the chickens. They love it and it's good for them.
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I've had even raw broken eggs, dropped by me or stepped on by them, eaten in the coop and it doesn't make them egg eaters.
    Fed shells, rinsed and crushed a bit by hand...doesn't make them egg eaters.
    Fed raw and cooked chicken meat and organs....doesn't make them cannibals.
  8. chiknhurder

    chiknhurder Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 8, 2014
    Cass County Missouri
    I feed chicken to mine but I have been told and have read never to feed them raw meat because it could be asking for trouble.
  9. pdirt

    pdirt Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 11, 2013
    Eastern WA
    IMHO, your vegan friend is simply telling you the lies of the vegan evangelists. Don't get me wrong, vegetables are great and everyone should eat more, but the claim of the vegan evangelists---that ALL humans are designed to eat ONLY plant products---is horse pocky. Now, I do believe there are people (and animals) that thrive on a vegan/vegetarian diet and there are those who thrive on diets that include animal products. Many of the claims of the vegan folks are true, but trying to convert the world to one diet just isn't right, in my book.

    Our chickens will eat an egg and the eggshell (less mess to clean up!) if an egg gets accidentally broken. We store eggshells in large jars at room temp and when we have several jars full, we roast them when we bake a dinner in the oven. Roasting makes them easier to crush and feed back to them. 4 jars of eggshells now become 1 jar of crushed. The chickens love it. If you free range your chickens, you will quickly find out that chickens are NOT vegetarians...they eat bugs, snakes, frogs, mice, etc, (but mostly bugs) and whatever tasty plants they can find.

    Sorry, but I just can't stand the vegan dogma. We actually eat a lot of vegan/vegetarian foods, but the animal products are nourishing to us at a very deep level. I have no problem with people eating however they choose so, but I do get quite annoyed when folks start saying "this is the ONLY way to be/eat/find God/etc". We are all too unique to fit into such a neat box.

    If you want to hear an alternative to the vegan stuff, check out the Weston A. Price Foundation, Sally Fallon and her book "Nourishing Traditions". Those folks can also be a bit dogmatic, but they aren't as bad about it. I've tried various diets, including raw foods (veggie), regular vegetarian and vegan...I felt horrible on those diets and knew in my gut it wasn't right for my body. YMMV

    The only thing I would recommend against is feeding your chickens raw chicken...too big of a risk of passing along chicken specific pathogens.
    1 person likes this.
  10. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    If you're not comfortable feeding chickens their shells back for supplemental calcium, simply give them a layer feed with added calcium, and/or offer them crushed oyster shell.

    I've fed my birds their shells back for 20 years. I don't wash, crush, bake, or otherwise disguise the shells. I tossed half a dozen shell halves in the run today, then saw an oops egg laying in the run, right where I'd tossed the shells. No one ate the egg, they just ate the shell halves. [​IMG] I also feed my birds meat, even *gasp* raw chicken on occasion. They don't sicken, they don't die, and they don't become raging cannibals. They're healthy, with glossy feathers and lay like crazy.

    Yes, eating an egg is eating part of the bird's reproductive process. Yes, eating meat is eating muscle tissue. All tastes great to me.

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