Making Eggshell Supplements: A quick and easy how-to (with pictures!)

Just over a year ago, when I made the decision to get my first “livestock” on the homestead, it was a big step.  Many homesteaders joke that chickens are a gateway animal into homesteading.  But after a lot of research into the care and handling of said birds, I quickly realised that it was ducks, not chickens that would be the best fit for our homestead.

Learning to care for and raise them has been more educational than most classes I took in college.  And I took a lot of classes in college!

I started, naturally, by googling whatever information I could find, and quickly followed up by accruing a hard copy library of books on the subject that may well rival the resources of the local Ag Extension. {Click here to view some of the books I researched in my Goodreads profile}

Our intent was purely to keep our ducks for eggs and as pets.  So our mission was clear from the beginning.

Starting with all female ducklings, we raised them with love through the summer, fall, and winter last year.  And come this Spring we were blessed with this abundant reward.


Those are fresh from the coop, homegrown duck eggs folks.  Yes, they’re unwashed.  In this rainy weather they’re mucky as anything.  And they’re beautiful.


But to get eggs that big, beautiful, and bountiful ducks need an amazing diet.  And amazingly one of the best things they can have in that diet is their own eggshells!

Sure, their feed is high in calcium. And we could supplement with expensive crushed oyster shells from the feed store.  But the healthiest, surest way to make certain they’re getting the calcium they need is to give them back what they’ve already produced.

So when we use eggs around the homestead, we save those shells:

As you can see from the pics above, the eggs stay unwashed until we use them.  That’s to preserve the natural bloom which protects them from bacteria getting through those lovely shells.  Before they’re used, we give them a quick washdown in the sink, and the shells get a rinse after they’re cracked open and used.

What we’re left with is what you see above.  About once a week (we eat a lot of eggs round our place) we get to the business of crushing them (see below).  By hand or by tenderizer (we’re vegetarians — what else would we use it for?), the beautiful shells become confetti, and get spread across a broiler pan.

When they’re crushed into bite-size pieces, it’s into the oven they go.  I usually preheat the oven somewhere between 325-350 degrees, and the shells bake for about 10-15 minutes, just long enough to kill any lingering bacteria.

The end result is what you see below:

These pearly golden beauties get crushed a little further and added to the feed bin.  Mixed with their homemade feed and fresh greens, they give our girls a complete diet rich in the calcium they need to keep providing us with those big, bountiful eggs!

(And yes, you can try this at home – just remember:  this diet supplement is for the birds!)

 

Today’s Harvest

Blessed Be the Harvest.

It is sweet. It sustains us.

Nature provides. And all we must do is pay attention, and gratefully take what we are given. The bounty of the earth is there for all of us.

The blessings of a homestead are many, and one of these is the bounty of fresh harvested food for our table. While our garden is still small, our needs are few. And we supplement with wild forageables from the land on and around our property to fill our plates, our stomachs, and our hearts.

Today’s Harvest was meagre, but welcome. Kept inside most of the day by the incessant rain we’ve had here of late, I was able nonetheless to go out and check on the garden for a little while when we had a break in the downpour. There I found a mere three strawberries and three tomatoes waiting for me.

Doesn’t sound like much, does it?

But it is! When only two days ago I should have had three strawberries, but got to keep only two (the third had a slug hanging out of it, and was left for the slug to finish and then feed the birds). The tomato plants have struggled between the blessing of the rain and the onset of early summer heat to produce and pollinate. Yet still they provide! And my daughter will gratefully down those three little cherry tomatoes with more joy than most children get from a candy bar these days.

It really is the little things.

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Meanwhile the broad beans are blossoming, the zucchini are aflower, and the herb garden continues to grow. A lime bush we thought beyond hope, transplanted in a box from our previous home, has come back with full green leaves and is valiantly winning the struggle to grow anew. Cabbages which had all but dried out from the bright sun a few days ago have found new strength and are thriving in the shade of the straw bale bench. Rescues of begonia and petunia from the discount rack at the big box hardware chain are blossoming in bright abundance at the gate of the garden, putting on a show of reds, purples, and pink to thank us for giving them the chance to live.

And there is planting yet to be done. Soon we’ll be adding all manner of new edibles. And tomorrow, our dear ducklings will move outside from their bathtub brooder to their new home adjacent the garden. But that’s another story…