In every feed store, you’ll find bags of grit and oyster shell near the chicken feed. Why is that, and what exactly do chickens need them for? Learn from Nutrena poultry expert Twain Lockhart what the benefits of them are, and how you should feed them to your flock.
Oyster shell and grit are not interchangeable
Oyster shell supplements the calcium in chicken feed
Grit aids in digestion of grain, plant materials, bugs, etc. – when in doubt, put it out!
The shell of each egg your hens are laying is made up of nearly 95% calcium carbonate by dry weight. To produce hard eggs, your chicken will consume up to 20 times the amount of calcium in her bones each year. As their keeper, it is your responsibility to ensure each chicken is consuming a steady supply of calcium in her diet.
DON’T Feed Egg Shells to Supplement Calcium For Chickens
There are some chicken owners who swear by reusing eggshells and feeding them back to their flock. Some people may crush these before feeding. Feeding your chickens their eggshells may seem like a convenient way to recycle them, but there are several health risks.
Risk of salmonella for hens
Salmonella can be found on the inside and outside of eggs. The kicker? Salmonella can be on eggs that seem to appear completely normal. Feeding your hens eggshells infected with this bacterium can cause this sometimes fatal illness. Some people prevent this by baking their eggshells before feeding, however, that is not always effective and is a time-consuming process
Risk of salmonella for humans.
This is where the “domino effect” comes into play. If a chicken is eating eggshells with salmonella and becomes infected, this affects the eggs they are producing, and any human consumption of those eggs.
Teach Bad Habits
Can teach hens to start eating their own eggs. When chickens start to recognize their food as eggshells, this runs the risk of them eating and destroying the eggs they lay.
DO Feed Them Oyster Shells or Limestone to Supplement Calcium For Chickens
Though this may seem like a higher investment up front, feeding your laying chickens oyster shells or limestone instead of their own eggshells will pay off in the end. By cutting out serious health risks to your chickens and to those eating the eggs they produce, feeding oyster shells or limestone is a cost effective and safe alternative. In addition, a little bit of these products go a long way. A 50 lb. bag of oyster shell or limestone will last up to several months for 6 – 8 birds. Feeding these products is easy – simply put the oyster shell or limestone in a separate container and allow birds access. Your girls will take what they need.
When it comes to calcium supplementation for your flock, ground limestone or oyster shells are safer options than feeding eggshells.
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