Feeding Chickens Egg Shells: A Homesteader’s Guide

Homesteading is a lifestyle where sustainability and self-reliance are at the heart of daily life, and every resource counts. One practice that has sparked interest and debate among chicken keepers is feeding eggshells back to the flock. But why would anyone consider feeding chickens something that seems like a waste product?

Feeding eggshells to chickens as a dietary calcium supplement can be a good method to reuse eggshells and benefit the health of your birds. The eggshells must be properly cleaned and crushed to make it easier for the chickens to eat and prevent association with their own eggs.

Feeding eggshells to chickens requires understanding your chickens’ dietary needs and what benefits, if any, the eggshells can provide. We will explore these aspects to help you decide if this practice is good for your homesteading situation and how you can best prepare the egg shells before giving them yot your birds.

Should You Feed Egg Shells To Your Chickens?

Chickens, especially laying hens, require a substantial amount of calcium in their daily diet to maintain strong bones and produce eggs with robust shells. While commercial feeds often contain the necessary nutrients, many homesteaders seek natural, cost-effective ways to supplement their chickens’ diets.

This is where the practice of feeding eggshells to chickens stems from, but is it worth the effort? The thinking behind it is that the shells can provide an important calcium supplement for the birds, enhancing the quality of the eggs the hens lay and contributing to their overall well-being.

However, like many aspects of homesteading, feeding eggshells to chickens is not without its controversies and considerations.

Benefits of Feeding Chickens Egg Shells

Feeding eggshells to chickens is a practice that many homesteaders have embraced for various reasons. Below, we’ll explore this practice’s key benefits, providing insights to help you decide if it’s right for your flock.

1. Egg Shells Are A Natural Calcium Source

Chickens require calcium for various bodily functions, most notably for laying eggs with strong shells. Eggshells are made up of approximately 95% calcium carbonate, making them an excellent natural source of this essential mineral.

As seen in the table below, eggshells are comparable to other common calcium sources, offering a natural and readily available option.

Calcium Content Comparison
SourceCalcium Content (%)
Oyster Shell96
Commercial FeedVaries (2-4%)

2. Feeding Egg Shells To Chickens Promotes Recycling Waste

Homesteading often emphasizes sustainability and resourcefulness. Feeding your chickens eggshells, you’re turning kitchen waste into valuable nutrition. This practice aligns with the principles of reducing waste and promoting a closed-loop system on the homestead.

3. Enhancing Eggshell Quality in Laying Hens

Feeding eggshells can lead to noticeable improvements in the quality of the eggs your flock lays. Here’s a breakdown of how eggshells can enhance egg quality:

  • Stronger shells. Adequate calcium intake leads to thicker and more resilient eggshells.
  • Consistent laying. Ensuring a balanced diet helps hens lay eggs more consistently.
  • Healthier hens. Proper nutrition contributes to the overall health and vitality of your flock.

Feeding chickens eggshells offers several compelling benefits for homesteaders. It is an effective,  readily available source of calcium that rivals commercial options and aligns with the principles of waste reduction and resourcefulness. The egg shells contribute to the production of high-quality eggs.

How To Prepare Egg Shells For Chickens

Before diving and feeding chickens eggshells, it’s essential to understand the proper preparation methods. Properly prepared eggshells ensure your chickens receive the maximum nutritional benefits while minimizing potential risks.

We will guide you step-by-step through the process of preparing eggshells for your flock so you can feed it to them safely.

Cleaning The Egg Shells

Before feeding eggshells to your chickens, it’s crucial to clean them thoroughly to remove any egg residue and potential contaminants that could make your chickens sick.

The steps to clean egg shells thoroughly are as follows:

  • Rinse the egg shells immediately. After cracking an egg and using the contents, rinse the shell under running water to remove any egg white or yolk.
  • Soak them in warm water. For stubborn residues, soak the shells in warm water for 10-15 minutes.
  • Scrub Gently: Use a soft brush or cloth to scrub the shell’s inside.

Drying The Egg Shells

Drying the eggshells ensures they’re free from moisture, which can lead to mold growth. Several methods can be used to remove moisture from the shells, each with differing efficiencies.

Egg Shell Drying Methods Comparison
MethodTime RequiredEfficiency
Air Drying24-48 hoursModerate
Oven Drying10-15 minutesHigh

Oven drying is the method I recommend as it is the most efficient method, and it does not leave room for mold or other issues to become established on the shells.

Follow these steps for oven-drying the eggshells:

  1. Preheat your stove oven to 250°F or 120°C.
  2. Spread the cleaned eggshells on a baking sheet in a single layer.
  3. Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until completely dry.

Crushing The Eggshells

Once dried, the eggshells must be crushed into smaller pieces to make them easier for the hens to consume and prevent any association with their eggs.

Various tools can be used to crush the eggshells, including the following.

  • Mortar and pestle
  • Rolling pin
  • Food processor or blender

Follow these steps to crush the eggshells:

  1. Place dried eggshells in a plastic bag or between two sheets of parchment paper.
  2. Use your chosen tool to crush the shells into small pieces about the size of a grain of rice.
  3. Store the crushed eggshells in an airtight container until ready to use.

Preparing eggshells for your chickens is a straightforward process that ensures safety and maximizes nutritional benefits. Following these steps, you can provide your flock with a valuable calcium source supporting their health and well-being.

Potential Risks And Controversies

While feeding eggshells to chickens offers several benefits, it’s not without potential risks and controversies. As responsible homesteaders, it’s essential to be aware of these concerns and take appropriate precautions. We will include the potential risks and address some common misconceptions.

1. Risk of Salmonella

Eggshells can harbor bacteria, including Salmonella, which poses a risk to both chickens and humans. The table below details how to minimize the risk of this dangerous bacteria.

Methods to Mitigate Salmonella Risk
BakingBaking the eggshells at 350°F (175°C) for 10 minutes can kill Salmonella.
Washing with VinegarSoaking eggshells in vinegar solution can help disinfect them.

2. Possibility of Encouraging Egg-Eating Behavior in Chickens

Some chicken keepers worry that feeding eggshells might encourage chickens to eat their own eggs. While this concern is understandable, proper preparation can minimize this risk.

Tips to prevent egg-eating behavior in your chickens include the following:

  • Crush the eggshells to a size that doesn’t resemble whole eggs.
  • Mix the eggshells with other feed so they are not recognizable.
  • Monitor your flock for any changes in behavior.

3. Addressing Common Misconceptions

There are several misconceptions surrounding the practice of feeding chickens eggshells. Below is a table that lists common myths and the truths behind them.

Myths and Truths About Feeding Chickens Egg Shells
Feeding eggshells will make chickens aggressive.There’s no evidence to support this claim. Properly prepared eggshells are a nutritional supplement.
Eggshells can replace all other calcium sources.While eggshells are an excellent calcium source, they should be part of a balanced diet, not a complete replacement.
All eggshells are the same, regardless of the source.The quality of eggshells can vary based on the hen’s diet and overall health. It’s best to use eggshells from healthy, well-fed chickens.

Understanding these misconceptions helps in making informed decisions and promotes responsible practices in feeding eggshells to chickens. Feeding eggshells to chickens is a practice that requires careful consideration and proper preparation.

Alternatives To Egg Shells As A Calcium Source

While eggshells are a popular and natural source of calcium for chickens, they are not the only option. Some chicken keepers may prefer alternatives due to personal preferences, availability, or specific dietary needs of their flock.

1. Oyster Shells

Oyster shells are a widely used calcium supplement alternative for laying hens. As with every supplement, there are pros and cons for each option.

Pros for oyster shell calcium are as follows.

  • High in calcium.
  • Easily digestible.
  • Widely available in feed stores.

Cons for oyster shell calcium are as follows.

  • They are more expensive than eggshells.
  • Not a recycling option like eggshells.

2. Commercial Calcium Supplements

Another option is to go with a commercial chicken feed designed to have a higher calcium content. Many commercial feeds are formulated with the necessary calcium levels for chickens.

The advantages of a commercial feed calcium alternative are as follows.

  • Balanced and consistent calcium content.
  • Convenient and readily available.

The disadvantage of commercial feed calcium supplements is as follows.

  • It may contain synthetic ingredients.
  • Less natural compared to eggshells or oyster shells.

3. Other Natural Calcium Sources For Chickens

Other natural sources of calcium can be explored, such as crushed limestone or aragonite. The benefits of this type of calcium are that it is natural and readily available and can be mixed with other feeds.

The disadvantages are that it may require more careful sourcing to ensure quality, and this supplement is less commonly used, so the guidance on amounts may be limited. The table below summarizes and compares the available calcium sources for your chickens.

Comparison of Calcium Sources for Chickens
SourceCalcium Content (%)NaturalCostAvailability
Oyster Shell96YesModerateHigh
Commercial SupplementsVaries (2-4%)NoVariesHigh
Other Natural SourcesVariesYesVariesModerate

Choosing the right calcium source for your chickens depends on various factors, including your homesteading philosophy, budget, and the specific needs of your flock. Understanding the alternatives to eggshells allows you to make an informed decision that aligns with your goals and values.

Tips And Best Practices For Feeding Eggshells To Chickens

Feeding chickens eggshells can be a beneficial practice that supports the health and productivity of your flock. However, success requires attention to detail and adherence to best practices. Below are some essential tips and guidelines to help you maximize this natural calcium source.

1. When to Start Feeding Eggshells

Chickens do not need constant calcium supplementation in their diets, and it should only be offered when the chickens reach a certain age or the diet is lacking in calcium.

  • Laying Hens. Begin supplementing with eggshells when hens start laying, usually around 18-20 weeks of age.
  • Non-Laying Chickens. Monitor calcium needs and consult with a veterinarian or experienced chicken keeper.

2. How Much to Feed

Feeding your chickens the right quantities of eggshell supplements is as important as feeding the right quantities of other food types.

  • General Guideline. Offer eggshells as a free-choice supplement, allowing chickens to consume as needed.
  • Monitor Consumption. Keep an eye on eggshell consumption and adjust as necessary.

3. Combining Eggshells with Other Dietary Supplements

Chickens require a balanced diet that includes nutrients and supplements other than calcium.

  • Balance with Other Nutrients: Ensure that eggshells are part of a balanced diet for your birds that includes other essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Avoid Over-Supplementation: Too much calcium can be harmful, especially to non-laying birds.

4. Storing Prepared Eggshells

Storing prepared eggshells properly will allow you to bulk-prepare the shells and store them for when your chickens need a calcium supplement.

  • Use Airtight Containers: Store crushed eggshells in airtight containers to prevent moisture and contamination.
  • Label and Date: Clearly label containers with contents and preparation date.

5. Consider Your Flock’s Specific Needs

Not every chicken flock will require calcium supplementation in their diet.

  • Individual Needs. Recognize that different breeds and individual birds may have unique dietary requirements.
  • Consult Experts. When in doubt, consult with experienced chicken keepers or veterinarians.

6. Embrace Sustainability

This option is more of a personal or moral choice and depends on your standpoint regarding sustainability on your homestead.

  • Recycle and Reuse: Embrace the homesteading spirit by recycling eggshells and reducing waste.
  • Source Responsibly: Using alternatives like oyster shells, consider sourcing from responsible suppliers.

Feeding chickens eggshell is an opportunity to support the well-being of your flock and align with sustainable homesteading practices. By observing these tips and best practices, you can ensure that your chickens receive the nutritional benefits of eggshells in a safe and effective manner. These guidelines provide a foundation for success in this aspect of chicken care.

FAQ: Feeding Chickens Egg Shells

We have included some answers to additional questions that new chicken keepers may have when they contemplate offering crushed eggshells to their birds.

Is it safe to feed chickens their own eggshells? Yes, feeding chickens their eggshells is safe as long as they are properly cleaned, dried, and crushed. This preparation helps prevent any potential health risks and avoids encouraging egg-eating behavior.

Can I feed eggshells to roosters or non-laying hens? While eggshells are primarily beneficial for laying hens, they can be offered to roosters or non-laying hens in moderation. It’s essential to monitor their consumption and consult with a veterinarian or experienced chicken keeper if unsure.

Do I need to bake the eggshells before feeding them to the chickens? Baking eggshells at 350°F (175°C) for 10 minutes is recommended to kill any potential bacteria, such as Salmonella. It also helps in drying the shells, making them easier to crush.

Can eggshells replace commercial calcium supplements entirely? While eggshells are an excellent calcium source, they should not entirely replace commercial supplements or a balanced diet. They can be used as a supplemental source of calcium, especially for laying hens.

How do I store prepared eggshells? Prepared eggshells should be stored in an airtight container to prevent moisture and contamination. Labeling the container with the contents and preparation date is also a good practice.

Will feeding eggshells make my chickens eat their own eggs? Properly prepared eggshells (cleaned, dried, and crushed) should not encourage chickens to eat their own eggs. The key is to crush the shells to a size that doesn’t resemble whole eggs.

Can I feed eggshells from store-bought eggs? While it’s possible to feed eggshells from store-bought eggs, it’s best to use shells from known, healthy sources. Store-bought eggshells may have residues or coatings unsuitable for chicken consumption.

How often should I feed eggshells to my chickens? Eggshells can be offered as a free-choice supplement, allowing chickens to consume as needed. Regular monitoring and adjustments based on your flock’s needs are essential.


Feeding chickens eggshells is a practice that resonates with the core values of homesteading: sustainability, self-reliance, and a holistic approach to animal care. From understanding the nutritional benefits to mastering the preparation process, we have explored the various facets of this practice.

While eggshells offer a natural and cost-effective calcium source, we’ve also mentioned the potential risks, controversies, and alternatives, providing you with a well-rounded perspective to make informed decisions for your flock.

Whether you choose to embrace eggshells as a calcium supplement or opt for alternatives, the key lies in thoughtful consideration, careful preparation, and adherence to best practices. Your chickens’ health and well-being are a testament to your dedication and care, reflecting the heart and soul of the homesteading lifestyle.







Owen Jung

Owen is the co-founder of Our Daily Homestead. Own grew up in his parent's homestead in Illinois and learned all things gardening, sustainability, and off-grid living while he was young. He now shares his knowledge through this website.

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