What's your secret to hard shells??

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by peepmommy, Feb 17, 2012.

  1. peepmommy

    peepmommy Songster

    Feb 15, 2012
    So after much deliberation, I have decided that my girls eggs need to be harder. I do mix in oyster shells to their pellets and scratch. Does anyone have a ratio of oyster mix to feed? Will they waste or eat too much if I just let them free feed on the oyster? Thanks!
  2. FeatherPainter

    FeatherPainter Songster

    Apr 19, 2011
    Northern New York
    I use a little hamster treat dish to hold oyster shell so they can have it when they want. They know how much they need. I gave my neighbor eggs the other day and he joked that he needed a hammer to open them!
  3. Imp

    Imp All things share the same breath- Chief Seattle

    There has been posts that "My chickens never eat the oyster shell" and "They are eating all oyster shell"
    I believe most people either free feed the shell seperate from the feed, like FeatherPainter said; or they sprinkle the oyster shell on the feed.
    Why do you think the shells are too soft?

    Here's a list of other food items that are good sources of calcium.

    1. Spinach & Swiss Chard
    2. Salmon & Sardines (canned with bones)
    3. Mustard, Collard, Kale & Turnip greens
    4. Shellfish
    5. Blackstrap molasses (can cause runny stools)
    6. Corn Tortillas
    7. Yogurt
    8. Mozzarella & Cheddar cheese
    9. Milk, Buttermilk (goat's milk and cow's milk)
    10. Basil, thyme, dill seed, cinnamon, and peppermint leaves
    11. Romaine lettuce
    12. Rhubarb
    13. Almonds, Peanuts & Brazil Nuts

    1. Black Beans, Dried Beans (Cooked)
    2. Sesame seeds
    3. Fennel
    4. Cabbage, Bok Choy, & Chinese cabbage
    5. Summer squash
    6. Green beans
    7. Garlic
    8. Tofu & Soybeans
    9. Brussel sprouts & Broccoli
    10. Oranges (Some people do not feed citrus to chickens)
    11. Asparagus & Okra
    12. Crimini mushrooms
    13. Foods Fortified with Calcium: Some Orange Juice, Breads, & Cereals

    Remember other nutrients help with the absorbtion of calcium notably Vitamin D, and magnesium I believe.

  4. sunnyllama

    sunnyllama Songster

    Jan 16, 2011
    Northeast Ohio
    I just add oyster shell right into the feed. My chickens take what they need and either leave the rest in the feeder or throw it in the floor. I always have nice, hard shells. My brother tells me the same thing, "I have to chisel them to get em open"!
  5. terryg

    terryg Songster

    Jun 5, 2007
    New England
    There are some things you can't control. Genetics plays a huge part in shell quality. Size of the egg matters, too. When a hen lays one of those huge eggs, it has the same amount of shell as a small egg and so will be more fragile. Also, as a chicken ages, the shell thins - whether or not you add calcium to the diet. That's one reason why "real" farmers don't keep hens past 2 years of age - the eggs break. That said, diet can improve shell thickness. If you're feeding too many treats (especially scratch corn!) the shells will thin. So, make sure most of the feed is from laying hen pellets, and let them free-range for greens and bugs. Treat with veggies if they're kept in a pen, and supply oyster shell free-choice for calcium. I have a nifty oyster shell dispenser. Look here:
  6. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    I agree age and breed seem to play a large part in shell hardness. Personally, I think sunshine also has something to do with it. I don't know the science behind how vitamin D might be involved in shell production, but my shells seem thinner in the winter. I supplement with greens all winter, so diet doesn't really change.
  7. terryg

    terryg Songster

    Jun 5, 2007
    New England
    Donrae- the vintage poultry-keeping books I have all say that sunshine and exercise are necessary for healthy layers, and studies do show that vitamin D is essential. Aren't you in a rainy part of the world? I wonder if that's why you notice a change in the winter. Between dark skies and fewer daylight hours, you have less sunshine than we do here in New England.
  8. peepmommy

    peepmommy Songster

    Feb 15, 2012
    Terryg is right about the sunlight and vitamin d. You need vitamin d to absorb calcium. It is the same for all animals. Temperatures get pretty cold here in PA and my hens really don't lay at all during the winter, so I can't compare. I don't put lights on them either over winter.
  9. CarolJ

    CarolJ Dogwood Trace Farm

    Jun 3, 2011
    Middle Tennessee
    Before I bought my own chickens, I purchased eggs from a nearby farm. The shells were paper thin and broke easily - but they were delicious and I knew where they came from (as opposed to store bought eggs). Now that I have my own flock, I keep a dish of oyster shell in the coop at all times. I also give my chickens kitchen scraps. When all the chickens in the flock are at least 17 weeks old, their feed is layer feed. When I introduce younger chickens to the flock, I give them all "flock feed" until the younger ones are 17 weeks old. The eggs have a good strong shell. Sometimes I observe one of the hens eating a lot of the oyster shells. I figure they instinctively know what's best for them - as long as they have a choice. So I let them eat as much or as little as they want.
  10. Chemguy

    Chemguy Songster

    May 30, 2011
    Springfield, Ohio
    I offer oyster shell free-choice out in the run. It disappears in a slow, steady stream. The hens know when they need it. In addition to eggshell they get layer feed (which has higher levels of calcium than starter feed), sunshine and plenty of table scraps.

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