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!)

 

Constructing an Ark

I’ve been considering constructing an ark.

All right.  Maybe not a full-on ARK.  But perhaps a small one?

Let’s just put it this way…  At least my ducks can swim.  Really, really well.

You see…  Just a couple of short months ago…  The homestead routinely looked something like this…

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And thanks to the brilliant suggestions of the exceptional mind of my 8 year old, the duck run was looking something like this…

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The ducks were sitting pretty — high and dry in the Texas sky.

And then this happened…

flood pic

And keeps happening.

Yep.  It’s been raining around these parts with little to no break since April.

The result?

The Great Flood.  We’ve managed to exceed rainfall for the 500 year flood plains.  And that’s no drop in the bucket y’all.

And while only the very back acreage on our property is looking quite that (see pic above) bad —

  • the duck run has been a steady 2-6 inches underwater and MUCKY!
  • We SQUISH across the stepping stones just to get from the front porch to the car.
  • And trying to check the mail?  Half the time the driveway is a sunken bridge.  The water in the “ditches” is flowing at full-river-force most days.

So yeah, it seems drastic.  But with the recent flooding, can anyone blame me?  While I may not have my animals lined up 2 x 2, I’ve definitely been thinking we might need an escape route.

All right, so maybe we won’t build an ark.  But it’s certainly an adventure keeping the menagerie from floating away some days.

And I admit — it hasn’t all been bad:

  • At least the garden is staying well-watered.
  • The car (well, the top of it anyway) is nice and clean.
  • The oleander are blooming beautifully.
  • And besides, who wouldn’t want to build a raft?  That’s fun homestead-y stuff right there.  The girls and I could make a weekend project out of it.

I always was a bit jealous of Huckleberry Finn and his adventures…

raft