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.
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