Egg Shell & Oyster Shell: The Great Debate

The Great Debate: Egg Shell or Oyster Shell?

Did you know that if a laying hen doesn't get enough calcium in their diet, their bodies will begin to steal the needed calcium from their bones?

 Which chickens need extra calcium?
Any laying hen needs to have the option of getting extra calcium by consuming either egg shell or oyster shell. We begin providing this for them around eighteen weeks old.
We do NOT mix it into their feed. Rooster, hens who aren't laying, and younger birds do not need the additional calcium. A laying hen will generally eat three times the calcium as a hen who isn't laying. However, you don't need to add it to the feed to get her to consume it. Simply adding a cup with the offering of egg shell/oyster shell is all she needs. She will eat as much as she needs, whenever she requires it.
Egg Shell
The makeup of a typical egg shell is 
95% Calcium Carbonate
5% Calcium Phosphate & Magnesium Phosphate
An egg shell is covered with approximately 17,000 pores, which are semi-permeable.
This means that bacteria, moisture, chemicals, etc, can pass into the egg.
Mother nature's way of combating this was to have the egg be coated at the last moment 
with what is known as the 'bloom.' This bloom has the purpose of sealing off the tiny pores so that nothing can pass into the egg. This is the reason  it is important to not wash eggs. Washing eggs removes the bloom, and opens the egg up to possible contamination.
Oyster Shell 
The makeup of oyster shell seems to vary a bit by brand.
The current brand I am using is Manna Pro 100% pure/organic
97% Calcium Carbonate
1% Magnesium
(last 2% not mentioned in ingredients)

Pros and Cons
Egg Shell
1. Egg shell, from your own eggs, is free.  (Pro)
2. Egg shell must be prepared- saved, washed, dried, crushed. (Con)
3. Egg shell may not always be plentiful. (Only available when eggs are) (Con)
(We have four cochins, who love to be broody all summer, and one girl who doesn't lay anymore. So there are five of our girls who are slackers and we can't depend on their eggs!)
4. Chickens prefer their own egg shell. (Pro)
5. You know exactly where your egg shell came from, and how it was cleaned/prepared. (Pro)

Oyster Shell
1. Oyster shell must be purchased. If purchased in 50 pound bags, it isn't expensive
and it will last a long time. (Pro)
2. Oyster shell is always available, as long as the store is open. (Pro)
3. Oyster shell is ready to use. (Pro)
4. Chickens will eat it in the absence of egg shell. (Pro)
5. You have no real idea where it came from, how it was handled, what it
was treated with, what it was cleaned with, why it is white, etc, etc, etc. (Con)
6. Last bag I purchased said Organic? So what makes the other not organic? (Con)

Good gracious, who knew this could be so hard?
So what is the solution?

We offer both, and mix them into their shell cup every day.
I figure this is the best way because they get their egg shell most of the time,
and it is mixed with the oyster shell. They are used to seeing and eating the oyster
shell, so when I am low or out of egg shell, then they are not being introduced to something new all of a sudden. I think our last bag of oyster shell lasted over six months, so we only supplement the egg shell with it. However, the hens can pick whichever they prefer.
These items are much cheaper at your local feed store or tractor supply, but
but just in case you are in a pinch, here are the links. 
Plus, this cup is simple, great, and stainless steel.

An Easy to Grow Succulent: String of Pearls

String of Pearls Succulent in a Chicken Planter
Southern Chicks Wear Pearls!

If you are wanting to start growing succulents, I would suggest beginning with this lovely variety known as 'String of Pearls.' This simple little plant adds so much whimsy to any area of the garden, porch, or indoors. And, if you don't have a green thumb, this is an excellent place to start! 

Many years ago, I used to have several pots of the odd, string of pearls, but for one reason or another, I no longer had them. I stumbled across this lovely planter at a local garden shop, and of course, the beautiful 'String of Pearls' was sitting right next to it. So, I had to start growing it once again, and yes, I have missed them.  After all........

"Pearls are always appropriate" ~ Jackie O.

String of Pearls is easy to maintain.  If it is over 60 degrees, I leave it outside, in the direct sunlight. During the cooler months, bring it indoors, and place them near a window so that it can still get light. I love putting them in containers like this or hanging baskets so the tendrils can grow long. Your new plant will start off very small, but with a little care, the tendrils can easily reach 2-3 feet in length.

A Few Other Tips:

1. Make sure the pot has a drainage hole. 
2. Don't over-water, this is a very drought tolerant plant. Watering once a week is perfect, too much water, and the plant may start root-rot.
3. The 'pearls' can be toxic, so make sure that your pets or children can't eat them.
4. You can grow more by taking a simple cutting and allowing it to take root in a new pot!
5. Trimming the ends will make the pearls more compact and healthier.

Easy Coffee Ice Cream & Westrock Coffee

Westrock Coffee and coffee trees

I am going to take just a moment to tell you a little about my favorite coffee. Westrock Coffee Company has created a coffee that literally changes lives. Now, if you are like me, coffee changes my life daily! However, they literally change lives. The history of the development of this company, and its' mission is amazing. This company provides jobs to farmers, especially women, in some of the poorest areas, such as Rwanda. They teach them how to grow the beans, they teach them how to farm the land, and then, they even teach them how to manage their new income streams wisely. These women use this money to provide for their families, increase there land holdings, hire people to help them, and so much more. I was amazed as I listened to them recount the stories of their travels to these areas, and their work with these women. To learn more about this wonderful company and their products, click here.
Easy to make coffee ice cream with Westrock Coffee
Now, besides drinking this wonderful coffee, let me share my favorite recipe for coffee ice-cream. It is so easy, and you only need a strong cup of coffee, and four other ingredients.

2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup half/half
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup brewed coffee (strong)

Mix the cream and sugar together until sugar dissolves. Then, add half/half, coffee, and vanilla.
Add to ice cream maker and follow their instructions.

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Rabbit Safety in the Summer- Heat Exhaustion and Warbles

Summer time is dangerous for rabbits for several reasons, especially outdoor rabbits. Can you imagine being confined to a small cage, in the summer heat, with a fur coat on?
A rabbits optimal temperature is 60-70 degrees. Heat strokes and exhaustion can begin being experienced in temperatures around the upper 80's, especially if the humidity is also high.

My first suggestion is to take any rabbit that appears to be suffering from a heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or warbles to the vet, immediately.
Make sure your rabbits outdoor cages are not in the sun! Make sure they have a full bottle of fresh water, fresh timothy hay, and some romaine lettuce and herbs, or some cool treat. Another really good trick is to put a fan on their cages, and put a bottle of frozen water in the path of the air. This helps keep the air moving around them, and will greatly help keeping them cool. My indoor rabbits love to sit in front of a fan.  The fan also limits the ability of flies and gnats to land on your rabbit and their food.

Did you know that rabbits enjoy sitting on bricks or tile during the summer? They are much cooler, and if you dampen them or place a frozen bottle on them, it is even better.
All these may help keep your rabbit from suffering from heat exhaustion. If you notice your rabbit seeming lethargic, not eating, or any odd behavior, move them to a cooler location and provide fresh cool water, (add some mint if you have it available). Mint helps bring down their body temperature.

In extreme cases,  use a cool washcloth with a piece of ice in it to wipe their ears. If they appear to have had an actual heat stroke, inability to stand, unconscious, fever, refusing to eat/drink, etc., take them to a vet immediately. Rabbits with a health condition will deteriorate very quickly, and many times the only chance for survival is immediate vet care.

If you have outdoor rabbits, on extreme days, I would offer an additional water bottle or water dish that has electrolytes in it.  Never fully replace an outdoor rabbits water with this, however, rabbits are so picky that they may refuse to drink it, and end up severely dehydrated. (You can make your own electrolytes using water, sugar, and salt, purchase an electrolyte pack, or even keep a bottle of pedialyte on hand for emergencies.

Believe it or not, my indoor rabbits suffer from the heat too. I place this frozen ice pack in their cages every morning, and a new one every evening. They are always laying on them, or laying on one of the air conditioning vents. 

I purchased several ice mats and ice brick packs from the dollar store, and I made this cover to slip them down into, to ensure the fact that the frozen pack wouldn't damage their skin, and that they couldn't chew into the ice mat.

Click here to learn how to make a no-sew ice pack cover.
Next, whether your rabbits live inside, in the garage, or outside, please keep their litter boxes clean. If you have an outdoor rabbit and don't use litter, please keep the area under their cage raked up. The importance of clean living conditions cannot be stressed enough. Sitting in urine, can easily degrade their fragile skin very quickly. Besides this, gnats and flies are immediately attracted to the dirty cage bottom, litter box, or even the ground under the cage.
The problem with this, besides the obvious, is the fact that rabbits are highly susceptible to a condition known as warbles. Warbles is a condition where a fly or gnat lays eggs in wounds, scratches or any moist area, such as the eyes or even the anal area of any larger animal. Once this happens, the eggs hatch and they begin to actually eat the flesh of the rabbit. It is a horribly painful condition that usually ends in death, or an extremely high vet bill. This is 100% preventable with clean living conditions, and the attention of the owner.  Also, having a fan blowing on the cage whether it is outside/inside or in the garage will keep the flies and gnats from being able to land on the rabbit. Indoor rabbits can also have issues with gnats, but only if their cages are dirty enough to attract gnats into the house, or if the house already has a gnat issue.  These litter boxes make keeping their  cages clean so easy, and rabbits are extremely easy to train.

Remember our animals, that are kept in cages, are totally dependent on us to provide everything they need. Be responsible and keep them healthy, happy, clean and safe. They will reward you in many ways for providing for their needs.

(The below items are part of my amazon affiliate list. If you purchase using this link, I may receive a small commission from the sell of the item. Thank you)

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