Walking on Eggshells

by Guest Writer

According to the Poultry Industry Council, 97 percent of an eggshell consists of calcium carbonate, and only 40 percent of calcium carbonate is actually calcium. Laying hens require three to four times the amount of regular calcium in their diet to support strong eggshells.

How can I assure my hens are getting enough calcium?

A typical bag of poultry feed contains crude protein, crude fiber, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, methionine, lysine, manganese, and Omega-3 fatty acids. There are numerous ways of providing an efficient amount of calcium to hens, but the trick is to take these tips as preventative measures rather than using them as an easy fix.

1. Be sure to provide an efficient amount of oyster shell in the hen’s diets.

Although typical layer feeds contain some calcium, extra calcium in the feed is always important. Oyster shell grit contains calcium carbonate. Once consumed, the calcium absorbs into the hens digestive tract. According to the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station, around two pounds of oyster shell should be added to every 100 pounds of complete layer rations.

2. Get down to the nitty gritty.

A chicken’s digestive system puts almost nothing to waste. This is why it is important to include grit in their diet. When a chicken consumes food, the food lands in their muscular gizzard. The food stays in the muscular gizzard until it breaks down enough to digest. When the grit is consumed, it accompanies the chicken’s digestion by grinding against other food in the gizzard and breaking it down just enough to digest. Once the food breaks down enough to digest, the nutrients are absorbed and the waste is, well, put in the waste.

3. Are there different types of grit?

Indeed. Grit comes in two different forms: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble grit, or flint grit, is typically cheaper, and available at most pet and farm supply stores. Insoluble grit is what mostly acts as a digestive agent when consumed. Although free-range chickens can access grit on their own, it’s safe to provide it anyways to prevent any digestive damage from happening. Soluble grit, a.k.a. oyster shell grit, is what contains the most calcium. Oyster shell grit can be hard to find, and a little on the pricy side. Want an alternative? Save used eggshells after making an omelet. After all, the eggshells are mostly made up of calcium.

4. Here’s what to do:

If you don’t plan on composting your extra eggshells, place broken/used eggshells in the oven for about ten minutes to dry them out. Crush them up, and store them properly.

If soluble grit is not stored properly, it can be ruined. Be sure to keep the container up right and covered with a tight-fitting lid. This keeps the grit dry, and spill proof!

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