Oyster Shells For Chickens: Do Your Chickens Need Them?

Oyster shells are essential elements for chickens. They are used in poultry farming, significantly when raising chickens. 

You could have frequently heard the term ‘oyster shells for chickens.’ But what exactly do these terms mean?

Oyster shells are made up of crushed shells of oysters, offering a high source of calcium to your chickens. This calcium is vital for chicken health, particularly for laying hens, as it helps to make sturdy eggshells. 

We will explain how and why oyster shells are rich in calcium. Moreover, we will discuss the various tips to feed them.

What Are Oyster Shells for Chickens?

Oyster shells are crushed or ground into pieces of an oyster shell, which chickens can quickly eat. It is also called as a type of soluble grit.

Chickens readily absorb the calcium, so they are used in poultry farming. It is mainly given to egg-laying hens as it helps fulfill their calcium needs.

Also read: The complete guide on grit for chickens

Why Do Chickens Need Oyster Shells?

Egg-laying chickens are non-broody, and they continuously lay eggs. Most egg-laying hens lay about 200-300 eggs or more in a year.

This may cause a deficiency of calcium in their body. As a result, they need additional calcium intake to fulfill their calcium deficiency. Calcium deficiency in laying hens leads to weak feathers, legs, and soft-shell eggs.

Oster shells are a great source of calcium. That’s why oyster shells are used to feed egg-laying hens.

Oyster Shell Vs. Grit

Both the oyster shell and grit are essential elements for chickens. They are both commonly used in chicken farming.

However, they’re used for completely separate aims. You could have heard the terms ‘oyster shell for chickens’ and ‘grit for chickens.’ But what exactly do these terms mean?

Oyster shell, as the word describes, is mainly made up of crushed oyster shells, offering a high source of calcium to your chickens. It is also a type of soluble grit.

This calcium is vital for chicken health, particularly for laying hens, as it helps to form sturdy eggshells and deficiency of calcium in their body.

On the other hand, grit is small, hard particles of stone and gravel. Chickens ingest grit, which goes into their gizzards (a portion of their stomach), where it helps grind down their food for better digestion.

They are given to chickens living inside closed coops and runs. So, it is preferred to give pet chickens that live inside their owner’s house.

When Should I Start Feeding Oyster Shells to My Chickens?

oyster shells are important for chickens so they need it
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When chickens start to lay eggs, feed them oyster shells. This usually happens between 18 and 20 weeks for most chicken breeds. 

You must monitor your chickens and introduce oyster shells when they consistently lay eggs.

Laying hens need calcium to stay healthy and make strong eggshells. Offering oyster shells when your chickens start laying ensures they have enough calcium for eggshell formation.

Providing oyster shells in a separate feeder lets chickens eat them freely. This allows them to adjust their calcium intake to meet their needs. 

Monitor your chickens’ health and egg production, and adjust oyster shell intake as needed.

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How Do I Give Oyster Shells to My Chickens?

Providing oyster shells to chickens is easy. Here is a step-by-step instruction:

Wait Until Your Pullets Start Laying

Start feeding oyster shells to them when your pullets start laying eggs, around 18–20 weeks. This is the same for adult hens, so you can keep supplying them with oyster shells when they start laying eggs in their season.

Select the Form or Granule Size

Crushed granules of oyster shells are available in all poultry stores and online shops. It is essential to consider the granule size before buying.

Always remember to give granules of the appropriate size according to the age and size of your chickens. They are separately available in small to large size granules.

Put Oyster Shells in a Different Feeder

Use a separate feeder for oyster shells for chickens in the coop or run. It is good to keep the oyster shells container near their feed. This helps chickens distinguish calcium supplements from the regular feed.

Free Choice Access

Allowing your chickens to eat oyster shells freely is best. Chickens naturally control how much calcium they eat. So, when they require it, they will go to the container and eat it.

Track Consumption

As we know, chickens eat oyster shells only when there is a deficiency. If you see the oyster shells are not eaten, it may indicate that your chickens are getting enough calcium from their feed.

Change Quantity

Check the quality of the egg regularly. If the eggs are hard and strong, give them occasionally. In this type of case, giving them weekly twice or thrice is recommended.

But if the eggs are thin and soft-shelled, increase the quantity of the oyster shell. 

Changing oyster shell quantities may fix eggshell quality issues like thin or brittle shells. Increase or decrease according to flock needs.

Fill the Feeder Regularly

Maintain a steady supply by checking and refilling the oyster shell feeder. This is crucial during the laying season as they need it.

Give Fresh and Clean Water Daily

Always provide fresh, clean water to your chickens. Water consumption affects calcium absorption. Not only this, water keeps them hydrated and helps in digestion.

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The Benefits of Oyster Shells for Chickens

Feeding your hen oyster shells has various benefits. Here are a few:

Stronger Eggshells

Most laying hens need oyster shells for their calcium balance in the body, which makes vital shell eggs. 

A hen’s diet must contain enough calcium to lay an egg; if it doesn’t, it will take calcium from its bone, which causes fragile bones and calcium deficiency problems.

Calcium in oyster shells is slowly released, so the hen’s body can use it all night to form strong eggshells. 

This is helpful because egg production happens at night. Eggshells, for example, absorb calcium quickly and may not provide enough when needed.

Healthier Chickens

Besides strengthening eggshells, oyster shells benefit chicken health in other ways. Oyster shell calcium strengthens and protects hens’ bones and prevents avian osteoporosis

This is crucial because regular egg-layers use their calcium reserves, weakening their bones. 

Oyster shells prevent this by providing calcium continuously, promoting bird health and longevity.

A deficiency can reduce egg production or cause egg binding.  So, oyster shells ensure consistent and healthy egg-laying, boosting hen productivity and health.

Better Egg Quality

Chickens slowly get calcium from oyster shells, which helps in excellent eggshell production in their reproductive organs. 

This slow-release process is essential because most egg production happens at night, and hens lay an egg in the morning. 

Calcium from oyster shells makes the eggshells strong, minimizes breaking, and provides a better egg quality.

Also, calcium from oyster shells keeps hens healthy and extends their egg-laying period.

How Do You Find the Right Oyster Shell for Chickens?

Here are a few common things to consider before purchasing crushed oyster shell packets for your chickens:

Go for a Reputed Brand

It is best to purchase oyster shells for chickens from a reputed manufacturer because they maintain a suitable manufacturing process. It results in excellent quality production.

Moreover, the shells are usually crushed to an appropriate size that is easy for pullets and hens to consume. The granule size for the pullets should be smaller than that for hens.

Calcium Content

The calcium content in oyster shells for chickens can vary between brands. Few contain a minimum of 36% calcium and a maximum of 41% calcium. 

Therefore, opting for a product that guarantees at least 36% calcium content is advisable.

This will ensure that your hens get enough calcium for strong eggshell production and overall health.

Flock Age

It is essential to note that oyster shells are only necessary for hens 18 weeks (pullets) or older egg-laying hens. 

Younger chickens that are not egg-laying should not be fed oyster shells as it can lead to complications. 

So, permanently separating them from egg-laying hens’ feeding system is good. Otherwise, they will also eat the oyster shells from the same container.

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Oyster Shells Feeding Tips

Here are a few pro tips before feeding oyster shells to your chickens:

Monitor Consumption

Always monitor your chicken’s oyster shell consumption regularly. If they are emptying the oyster shell container fast, it is a sign that they are not getting enough calcium in their regular diet.

The lack of calcium weakens eggshells and lowers poultry health. Feed your flock a balanced diet to promote proper nourishment. 

This meal should have a good combination of proteins, vitamins, minerals, and oyster shells for calcium.

Adjust as Needed

Thin-shelled eggs may indicate calcium deficit in hens. These signs may indicate that you need to provide more oyster shells. So, according to their need, you should adjust the quantity of oyster shells you give. 

Some chickens may get enough calcium supplements from nature and lay strong eggs. So in that case, you can give them oyster shells every alternate day.

Availability and Accessibility

The oyster shells should be easily and freely accessible for your chickens. Providing them in a separate container from their regular feed and grit is recommended. 

Chickens who need extra calcium naturally go towards the oyster shell feeder and eat according to their body’s demands.

Alternatives For Oyster Shells: Eggshells

Eggshells comprise calcium. However, oyster shells are better for laying hen health and egg production. Calcium is essential for hens to create strong eggshells. 

However, eggshell calcium is not readily available when the hen needs it most for eggshell production. Additionally, eggshells may be too small for the hen to peck.

As a result, oyster shells provide a more significant amount of calcium to chickens for egg production, bone health, and egg quality. 

Eggshells are a temporary alternative, but oyster shells are better in the long run.

Always remember, eggshells should be baked to kill bacteria and ground into a fine powder before being served to chickens.

Is Limestone Better Than Oyster Shells for Chickens?

Limestone may not be better for chickens than oyster shells. Limestone also contains a good amount of calcium.

However, oyster shells may be better for laying hens, egg production, bone health, and egg quality.

Oyster shells are recommended for their higher calcium content and availability to chickens during eggshell development.

Due to their good absorption and efficacy, oyster shells are preferred over limestone for hens.

Wrapping Up: Are Oyster Shells Good for Chickens?

Finally, if you want your hens to lay strong, healthy eggs, keep giving them oyster shells. 

So, we can say oyster shells for chickens is an efficient approach to increasing their calcium intake.

Hens have distinctive characteristics; their nutritional demands change according to season, time, and health conditions. 

Good health and happiness for your chickens lead to good egg production and breeding. So, keep an eye on them and adjust as needed. 

The hens would likely say if they could speak with you, “The shower of oyster shells is wonderful!” 

Always remember, the happiness of your hen determines the quality of her eggs and health.

Bijaya Kumar
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