Have you noticed your chicken’s eggs are looking a little under the weather? Sometimes, when we go to collect our eggs, we get a rude shock when the eggshell crumbles in our hands leaving a goopy mess. Other times the egg’s structure is so weak and flimsy that we can see straight through the middle of it!
If your chickens are churning out weak-shelled eggs, then there’s most likely a problem with the nutrition intake in their diet, specifically the amount of calcium-rich food they have access to.
Why is calcium so important?
Eggshells are predominantly made of calcium carbonate - they need 2 grams of it to produce one egg. The egg gets its calcium by drawing it from the existing stores in the hens bones, such as their ribs, legs and wings!
Therefore if your hen doesn’t have enough calcium in her diet, then her eggshells won’t get the levels they need - causing the shells to be brittle, crumbly and misshapen. Sometimes it may be reduced to a film rather than a shell-like structure. If she’s severely lacking, then her bones will also suffer. If your eggs are looking irregular, then her nutrition and hormone levels aren’t high enough to produce the hardy shell that normal ones have.
What should I be feeding my laying hens?
Layer feed has been specifically designed to meet the nutritional benefits of egg-laying hens, as it has extra calcium incorporated into their ingredients.
In some cases, giving your hens a diet solely comprised of layer feed with be enough to keep their calcium levels high enough for healthy egg production, but it’s often a good idea to give them calcium supplements to be sure. The most common way to give them a calcium boost is through oyster shell grit (otherwise known as shell grit), which is comprised of crushed shells rich in vitamins.
You can also give your chickens extra calcium by baking and crushing up your leftover eggshells from healthy hens, and setting them aside for the girls to pick at when they please.
You should keep grit and feed separate, so your chickens can access one or the other at their leisure. If your chickens do need extra calcium in their diet, they will consume enough to get their levels up to where they need to be, as chickens can sense what they’re deficient in. Pretty nifty!
If you’re a beginner and aren’t sure what the right kind of feed is for your flock, why don’t you check out our starter kit? It includes yummy lay mash that will keep your hens satisfied and nutritionally healthy, as well as shell grit, cracked corn for treats and more. Plus, the container it comes in acts as a brilliant storage solution for the feed itself.
For some excellent examples of irregular produce, check out our ‘Egg Oddities’ article.