How I solved the thin shell problem


5 Years
Aug 9, 2014
Hello chicken buddies, one of my RIR was laying a perfect egg, the other was laying an egg with really thin shells. After much observation, I noticed that they both ate the same thing. I had oyster shells out for them too. I would see them peck at the oyster shells as needed. So I read the forums and took a stab at protein.

After reading about meal worms, raising meal worms, I looked at other sources of protein that was fairly cheap and was not technically alive. I came up with dog food. My dog has very expensive fish/sweet potato dog food from Canada which is human grade. It is 38% protein and other yummy stuff. It is inspected by both the Canadian and US bakery association. The brand is Acana Pacifica,

So I fed dry dog food to the RIR. One of my RIR still had the thin shell issue. Well upon more observation I noticed that the lead chicken would gobble up all the dog food and not let the other chicken with thin shells eat the dog food. OK, now I put the dog food in the blender and made dog powder. I add 1 T dog powder to 1/2 c layer food and add 1 cup water to make a homogeneous mush. This is their breakfast. I put breakfast out at night. When the automatic door opener opens the door in the morning, the two RIR jump out and gobble down breakfast. Because they are full, they take a nap, lay eggs and nap some more. The benefit to this is that the egg song is missing most days. So, now both RIR have perfect eggs.

I hope this story helps some people.
Sorry to be a downer, but it's not safe to feed them cat or dog food regularly. The levels of fats and nutrients are too high for them, and any overdose of nutrition is malnutrition the same way an underdose is, the main difference being that over-nutrition kills faster by a long shot.

They can only eliminate/process out a certain degree of a certain overdose of certain nutrients within a certain timespan, and the rest will harm them. Nutrients are digested in conjunction with one another so every overdose depletes the body correspondingly of other nutrients.

Many people tell you animals have instincts about what they eat, but they're forgetting that most domestic animals have had most instincts bred out of them to a greater or lesser degree and are notorious for eating too much, or the wrong things.

Best wishes.
well how often would it be safe? thank you like 1/2 small can for 5 chickens ?

Depends how often you want to give them that can, and what breeds they are. Once a week can be too often for some chooks but not a problem for others. Depends in large part on their breed and what the rest of their diet is. Better off getting them an alternative source of nutrients, protein etc... The reasons why are a bit complicated, but worth learning, for most people anyway; as my signature says, ignorance is not bliss, it's suffering.

I keep mongrel type chooks, and I don't have to restrict or doctor their diet to protect them from their own choices, as they have sufficient instinct to make the right choices; most people having trouble with chickens making bad dietary choices have purebred commercial production types bred for meat or eggs. I used to keep that sort but their poor quality of life, to me, isn't justified by their higher output of product; also, you end up having more health problems with them overall, the diet is just the tip of the iceberg there. I'd rather keep two mongrel hens who together eat less than one commercial layer but lay more than her, and which will continue to lay regularly for years to come on a healthier diet than the commercial layer can perform on, while foraging for much of their own food and producing superior product, all while enjoying great quality of life... Long after that unfortunate commercial layer has gone to her premature grave, burned out and aged before even hitting her adult prime and without enjoying true quality of life as applies to her species.

Basically if the can of dog/cat food were just pure meat/offal, maybe with some grains added, and no vitamin/mineral supplements, you'd be free and clear and not have to worry about it. But they tend to have nutrient additives, and that's the threat to your chooks.

These additives make the food a complete meal for a dog or cat, but they are too high for chooks. The diet you buy for your chooks is also supposed to be a complete meal, and supplementing it can and does alter their intake ratios which can leave them craving more of any given nutrient while being made deficient by their attempts to correct their deficiency. Even adding normal things like scraps, pasture foraging, treats etc to their diet can be bad for some chooks. I prefer keeping them on a diet I mix myself, and letting them freerange, and not keeping commercial breeds which need highly specific diets to do well. They are physiologically quite different to their ancestral type and can't change back onto a more natural diet properly; some will do okay, others fairly well, but at the expense of production, but many will simply not cope at all.

Most chooks I've known just won't touch dogfood, and even catfood. Others like it but as mentioned they can't be relied upon to have the instinct to exercise self restraint regarding eating the wrong thing. You have to be their control mechanism because they just don't have one anymore. Some can learn but most won't.

Dog and cat food used to be safer for chooks back in the day when dogs and cats were dying from long term chronic diseases of malnutrition, which can and do take up to (and over) a decade to kill and are often misdiagnosed as other problems... Indeed, many of the names of these deficiency diseases make no mention of what has caused them.

In more recent times it's been better researched and now brands understand that their feeds need a balanced ratio of given nutrients to ensure long term survival and actual health, not just subsistence, on the foods they sell. The problem is that these levels are too high for chooks. It doesn't matter what it is, and how vital it is for life, an overdose of pretty much anything is toxic. The nutrient levels in tins or bags of cat/dog food are altered from what's natural; for example dog food in a can is no longer just offal with some fillers like grain added, which is safer overall for chooks (though likely too fatty for them); now, it has levels of added calcium, selenium, etc that are sufficient to kill chickens. It will take a while to do so, though, and it's generally subtle in doing so.

Calcium-magnesium ratios must be balanced for health; an overdose of one depletes the body of the other and since cal-mag is vital for function of all cells in the body, overdose causes such things as cardiac arrests, kidney failure, etc. This can take years to reach fatal stages. But overdose of selenium will kill much faster than that, often within months, and arguably overdose of selenium is the greatest threat in processed dog/cat food that is being fed to other species. Even slight overdoses of selenium can be fatal, within weeks or months; it's a micro-nutrient, never meant to be a large part of the diet, and it's already encountered in many natural feeds like grains.

The selenium levels in dog food are sufficient to kill cats, never mind chooks and other smaller animals. If a food is good for dogs or cats, it's too fatty for chooks; overdose of fats long-term causes liver failure, cardiovascular disease, etc.

Long story short your best bet is to either get them no dog or cat food, or get them pure meat ones, like fish, or minced lean meats, etc, probably vitamin E is one of the very few nutrient additives you're safe to give them an overdose of. Vit C is another which is hard to overdose them on. Simple organmeats aren't likely to harm them, but of course all things within moderation; livers for example can be too high in vitamin A for chooks, other organmeats can be too high in other nutrients like copper, etc. Over 80% of all chicken deaths due to disease are due to digestive system disease, specifically liver disease; too much fat is a very common cause of liver failure, heart disease, etc. Heart attacks and liver failure are quite common in commercial chicken breeds.

If you want to supplement their diet you're better giving things like mealworms, though even those can be too fatty and people also run into problems feeding those. Because they're a raw protein and oil source, and naturally this is more desirable and healthy for chooks, they crave them, and will forgo a more balanced diet to try to meet needs their breed is physiologically incapable of meeting.

If your chook is of a breed developed to be a super-producer of either meat or eggs, it's designed to not be able to meet its own needs. To serve the economic interests, such breeds are literally burning the candle at both ends, and live short lives of constant cravings and nutritional desperation that cannot be satisfied. Giving them what they crave in the amounts they crave will only kill them. They're genetically geared to overproduce at the expense of their own health and quality of life, but for the sake of maximum quantities of eggs per lifespan or extra large and swiftly grown amounts of meat at super economical prices, most people are willing to turn a blind eye to this.

They don't handle food like other chooks do, they are bred to live short lives always having just enough to produce, never enough to feel satisfied otherwise production drops; and if given enough to be satisfied their overproducing bodies cannot handle it and it makes them unwell; for one example of their dysfunctional state, they lay down massive amounts of internal fats which harms them rather than digesting it normally. Commercial layers, for another example, were developed in conjunction with a carefully constructed diet that intentionally leaves them craving fats; the diet deliberately denies them enough, because if they get it, production slows or stops, and they may go into moult, or some will even go broody. Keeping them so desperate keeps them so productive.

Anyway... Long story short, if the economical bottom line is not more important to you than their quality of life and health, and you want chooks that do well on a more natural diet, which can be relied upon to make the right dietary choices by instinct alone, which will live long, healthy, happy lives under more natural circumstances, don't waste your time with commercial super-producers. They're basically designed to be incapable of having true quality of life, unfortunately, and this has a knock on health deficit passed onto the humans who eat their products. If you want chooks who can safely partake of treats, your best bet is not to keep commercial layers or meat chooks. Some breeds do better than others, for sure, but some are just abysmal.

Best wishes.
Thank you for the great information. For my 2 RIR I gave the equivalent of 1 dime sized kibble each a day for two weeks until the one that was laying thin shells stopped. 1 kibble compared to the cup a day of layer feed is not much. Just enough to help out. If the 1 chicken has thin walls again, I will look for a better protein source.
You're welcome. Thought I would mention there's a lot of causes of poor shells, or shell-less eggs, everything from nutrient imbalances, to stress, to hormone levels, to bacteria or viral load in the environment, or diseases, to parasites, to genetics, etc... All of those can cause it.

Best wishes.
I finally figured out not to feed my chickens Purina Chicken food. Their QA/QC is way off. I switched to Bar Ale along with the other half of my county.
I finally figured out not to feed my chickens Purina Chicken food. Their QA/QC is way off. I switched to Bar Ale along with the other half of my county.

Ah yeah, that could account for it! Always worth checking the daily ration before worrying about little treats added on top of it...

Purina is one of the sponsors of this forum, lol, but so many people find their chook and pet food is c-r-a-p regardless of what their reps say to the contrary. Go figure. 'Purina' is practically synonymous with 'low-grade' animal feeds. I think I read somewhere that we're not supposed to slag brands off in this forum...? But not sure. Anyway.

Good to hear you've found what the problem was and hopefully resolved it. Thanks for the update.

Best wishes.

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