can chickens eat duck egg shells

Can Chicken Really Eat Duck Shells? A Nitty Gritty Truth About Chicken Diets!



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I remember that day on the farm as clear as yesterday.

You were gathering eggs from the coop when something caught your eye – George, your favorite rescue chicken, pecking away at something on the ground.

As you walked over to check it out, you realized with surprise it was a leftover duck egg shell!

Now this had you wondering, can chickens really eat other birds’ egg shells?

You knew you had to get to the bottom of this feathered mystery once and for all.

The In-Depth Nutritional Breakdown of Egg Shells

can chickens eat duck egg shells

Now, you knew chickens need calcium to build strong bones and lay healthy eggs with tough shells of their own. But how much calcium are chickens really getting from pecking at leftover shells?

To find out, you decided to hit the books – or in this case, search the internet. Your research revealed egg shells, whether from chickens or other birds like ducks, are primarily made up of calcium carbonate. This compounds makes up a whopping 94% of the shell’s composition!

The other 6% consists of magnesium carbonate, protein and other trace minerals. Chicken egg shells contain approximately 1.5% calcium by weight on average. Duck shells pack an even denser 2.5% calcium content per gram since duck eggs tend to be larger overall.

You learned a medium-sized chicken requires around 3000mg of calcium daily per the National Research Council guidelines. One average sized chicken egg shell contains 30-40mg of calcium. So your chickens would need to consume 5-10 average sized egg shells to meet their daily calcium needs.

Duck egg shells, being denser in calcium, would require less shells consumed. You calculated 3-6 average sized duck shells would hit the 3000mg calcium target. Either way, egg shells from any bird are a budget-friendly, natural way for chickens to obtain this necessary mineral.

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You were definitely learning some valuable information! But you still had other questions about potential differences and safety concerns when feeding eggshells to your flock.

Comparing Chicken Versus Duck Shell Nutritional Profiles

can chickens eat duck egg shells

Okay, so you now knew that both chicken and duck egg shells are great natural sources of dietary calcium for chickens. But are there any other distinguishing nutritional factors you should consider?

In your research, you found while calcium makes up the bulkshare, duck egg shells also contain minute amounts of other minerals like phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium compared to chicken egg shells.

However, the real standout difference was the shells’ calcium density as mentioned. Duck shells pack around 40-50% more calcium gram for gram than standard chicken eggs. This is likely due to duck eggs generally being 25-50% larger in size than chickens eggs.

You realized the bigger surface area of duck shells means more calcium for chickens to scrape and consume with each peck and nibble. Effectively, duck shells provide better calcium bang for the buck!

Aside from overall calcium content and surface area for pecking, the nutritional profiles between bird egg shells are remarkably comparable. Both can fully meet calcium needs in balanced chicken diets.

Considering Potential Safety Hazards of Feeding Egg Shells

can chickens eat duck egg shells

Up until this point, all your findings pointed to egg shells from any source being a safe and nutritious supplement for chickens. But no research is complete without addressing potential safety concerns, you thought.

The one red flag you uncovered was the possibility of salmonella contamination if feeding raw, unwashed eggs or shells to chickens. Salmonella is harmful for both poultry and humans alike if ingested.

To eliminate this risk, experts widely recommend baking eggshells in the oven beforehand. You made a note the ideal temperature is 300°F and to bake for at least 20 minutes.

This process fully cooks and decontaminates the shells without destroying the calcium inside. You learned it also helps harden the shells some, preventing chickens from inhaling tiny fragments as they peck.

Additionally, you saw no restrictions against feeding chickens duck or other bird egg shells specifically. As long as proper sanitation practices are followed like baking, there were no identified safety hazards.

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The Final Verdict – Yes, Chickens Can (And Should!) Eat Duck Shells Too!

After hours of exhaustive research, conversations with poultry vets and experts, you now felt confident in the conclusion – chickens can most definitely eat duck egg shells, and they’re even more nutritious than plain chicken shells!

Not only do duck shells provide a boost of extra bioavailable calcium perfect for chickens bones and laying cycles, but their bigger size means more efficient pecking and consumption of those important minerals.

You realized offering your feathery flocks a variety of calcium sources like chicken AND duck shells couldn’t be more beneficial for their health and happiness free ranging on your farm.

From that day forward, you made it a point to collect any duck or other egg shells to share as nutritious treats and environmental enrichment for your girls. They certainly seemed to enjoy the extra snack – and who were you to deny them?

How Much and How Often You Should Feed Egg Shells

Now that you knew chickens could safely eat egg shells, next was figuring out proper amounts.

You learned it’s best to start slow, offering occasional pinches of crushed shells scattered in their feeding area.

This lets chickens explore and get used to the new food source without filling up on it entirely.

Most experts recommend no more than 10-15% of a chicken’s total daily calcium intake come from shells.

For reference, a standard electrolyte block supplemented feed contains 2-3% calcium already.

So crushed shells could make up the remaining 1-2% through 2-3 times weekly in addition to a calcium rich diet.

More active egg layers prone to thin shells may benefit from shells 4-5 times per week as a dietary supplement.

But for average backyard flocks, 2-3 times is sufficient to reap the benefits without overdoing extra calcium.

How to Store and Prepare Egg Shells

Storage and prep was important to minimize any bacterial growth issues.

You learned unused shells could be kept in an airtight container in the fridge 2-4 weeks.

Or they could be frozen 6 months or longer without impacting calcium levels.

When ready to feed, shells should be rinsed well to remove any residue then left to fully air dry.

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Afterwards, crushing them into small pieces increased surface area for more efficient consumption.

An old coffee grinder or food processor made quick work of crunching up larger shells into microscopic calcium morsels.

Proper handling and preparation ensured clean, safe shells maximizing nutrition benefits for your chickens.

Signs Chickens are Getting Enough Calcium

Being able to spot calcium deficiency or sufficiency was important for chicken health.

Strong eggshells without cracks or thin spots showed calcium levels were adequate.

Normal bone formation in growing chickens, absence of soft or warped bones also indicated sufficiency.

Behaviorally, chickens with sufficient calcium had shiny feathers and were active without lethargy.

Deficiency caused poor eggshell quality, bones problems, and other indirect health issues.

By paying attention to these signs, you could ensure your flock stayed properly calibrated with calcium through diet tweaks as needed.

Additional Feed Supplements for Ca and Other Essential Nutrients

While egg shells provided an all-natural boost, some supplemental feeds offered balanced nourishment too.

You researched feeds fortified with calcium, phosphorus, vitamins D3 and K for strong bones and metabolism support.

Salmonella-free oyster shell grits helped with calcium intake and digestion as chickens don’t process nutrients the same way as humans.

Diets higher in whole grains, plant proteins, and omega-3 fatty acids promoted all-around chicken wellness too.

By thoughtfully combining shells, a well-rounded feed, and other whole foods, chickens would thrive on nutritional completeness.

Best Breeds and Life Stages for Shell Feeding

Not all chickens were created equally when it came to calcium and egg shell needs.

Specifically egg-producing breeds like Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns required the most shell-based dietary calcium.

Chickens going through growth spurts like juvenile pullets or brooding hens also benefited more during crucial developmental periods.

Small to medium sized flocks tended to fully consume whatever shells were provided versus larger commercial operations.

So while all chickens could partake in shells, certain breeds and lifestages optimized the benefits the most for strong production cycles.

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