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How much oyster shell? Can they OD?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by cjstanman, Jan 4, 2009.

  1. cjstanman

    cjstanman Songster

    Jun 3, 2008
    Just north of Raleigh
    I've been searching the forums but haven't really found this particular question. I've been throwing some oyster shell on the ground for my 4 hens for a couple of weeks as I transitioned them to layer feed, and just got my first egg today. I read about having oyster shell next to their food as "free choice" but when I left a small container out, it was GONE, lickety-split, and the container itself looked like they had played rugby with it, lol.

    Is there a danger with giving them too MUCH oyster shell? Can they overdose on it and have other problems, or will they stop when they've had enough? Mine are 20 weeks old and have been doing a 50/50 mix of grower/layer as I move them over to 100% layer feed (just about there). I also throw in a few handfuls of scratch twice a week or so, and move their tractor around every other day for grass, bugs and dirt.

    P.S. First egg was nice and firm, no shell problems.
  2. colby318

    colby318 got 'dottes?

    Jul 14, 2008
    Stamping Ground, KY
    Birds are pretty good about what they need. Mine do the same. I feed them grower finisher with the oyster shell on the side. I think their bodies are good at hoarding the calcium in their bones. Just my uninformed opion. [​IMG]
  3. digitS'

    digitS' Songster

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    The "no shell problems" is a good sign.

    As Coby says, they are supposed to be good at self-regulating calcium intake. You can probably find some rooster owners who have never really seen their roos eating oyster shell.

    For the hens, it is another story! Can you imagine the difference in their calcium needs compared with wild chickens kicking out maybe 10 to 20 eggs each year? We have created calcium-cravers by selecting for egg production.

    Lots of the country doesn't have much soil calcium so plants there are often deficient. Scratch grains don't have much calcium. And just feeding their own shells back to them won't do it. Their digestion is NOT 100% efficient.

    I think you are doing the right thing. Once they are laying, free choice is best [​IMG].


    edited to add: free choice oyster shells or a laying formula with adequate levels of calcium, that is. Both should be fine . . .
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2009
  4. chookchick

    chookchick Songster

    Aug 18, 2008
    Olympia WA
    They are remarkably good about figuring out what they need! My rooster and non-laying pullet totally ignored the oyster shell. As soon as they start laying they pig out on it--should slow down when they get enough, so let them figure it out.
  5. My RIR's won't eat it they just look and walk away. Their shells really were not soft, just not as hard as i thought they should be so I bought some hard shell from the co-op. they won't eat it so since they free range, i'm ok if they are. marrie
  6. cjstanman

    cjstanman Songster

    Jun 3, 2008
    Just north of Raleigh
    Just a quick update - I've now got 2 out of 4 that have started to lay and they are going through the oyster shell like crazy. I put out 1-2 cups of shell a day in a container next to their feed and it's gone by lunch. Apparently I need to step it up, ha ha!

    Eggs are coming out great and they seem none the worse for wear, so I'll keep on with it.
  7. HorseFeathers

    HorseFeathers Frazzled

    Apr 2, 2008
    Southern Maine
    We give free choice. If they want it they'll eat it. They're smart like that.
  8. jvls1942

    jvls1942 Crowing 9 Years

    Oct 16, 2008
    Quote:I agree, you are better off giving it free choice.. at first it will go fast, but when they have had enough they quit pigging out, a bag will last a long time.. free range chickens do not need as much.. there is calcium in plants and bugs..

    you are giving them "so much" a day.. you do not really know how much they need,,,, they do....
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2009

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