Do I need Oyster shell?


10 Years
Jul 31, 2009
Davis County, Utah
I hear a lot of people recommending giving oyster shell for the calcium. I feed my chickens layer pellets, and kitchen scraps, they free range a little and get scratch randomly. All the eggs I get seem normal and strong. Do I give oyster shell just because, or do I give it when I notice soft eggs?
oh! another quick question regarding oyster shell, how do you "serve" it? Just scatter it on the ground like scratch? Or does it go in a bowl?
If your egg shells are hard, they are getting enough calcium. The layer contains some, the table scraps probably don't have much, they get calcium from the hard shelled bugs they eat, and they may get calcium from the rocks and pebbles they eat as grit when they free range if you are in limestone country. It does not hurt to offer some on the side in a bowl. I don't and my eggs are fine, but if there is any question as to the quality of your egg shells, I'd suggest offering it on the side. They do need sufficient calcium. I would not mix it with their food since I believe forcing them to eat too much of anything is probably not good for them.
Laying pellets have all the calcium they need and it is not necessary to give birds extra oyster shell when they don't need it. Too much calcium can cause shells to be too hard. During spring and summer, when they are free-ranging more, if you notice the shells getting softer then you can give more calcium then. You will notice a difference within a day or two, so "prevention" is not something to worry about. They do, however, need grit in order to stay healthy so provide grit for them in their run area (I just give them a pile of DG once a year).
my grandparents have been raising chickens for over 25 years and they NEVER gave their chickens oyster shells and their eggs are just fine. they don't free range cuz of the dogs, but they do have a 15ft by 15ft dog kennel and they get chicken scraps.
If you are allowing free range/forage, I think it depends on the local environment. If the subsoil bedrock is limestone, then there seems to be enough calcium for firm eggshells. I remember the Grandparents chickens occasionally laying thin & soft shells, their well water had a nasty sulfur smell to it. My well water leaves heavy lime deposits in the tea pot and I rarely have thin or soft shells---usually with a new layer or old expiring hen. So, I think that giving oyster shell is dependent on the need.
First off, thanks everyone for your advice. I appreciate it. Wondering now what is DG (see above). Also, how do I know if I live in limestone country?
Thank you all, this was very helpful. Particularly regarding well water: I always see grayish-white flakes in the bottom of my teapot after I boil water. And my well water tastes, does that mean that there is readily-available calcium in the well water that I give to my hens? Or is that Calcium not bio-available?
And yes, what is DG?

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