I figured this morning would be a good day for a follow up on our girls, as we have recently concluded an experiment with the girls, and we have some actual results back to report.  As you all remember from Chicken Week 7, we have been making our own food for the girls for about a month now.  That part of is has been going great.  Even through the “dead of winter” we never had a day with less than two eggs.  Now that spring is here, we are getting more than 5 dozen eggs a week from our 12 girls.  That’s pretty impressive to me.  Last night we made a dozen eggs for dinner, all less than 24 hours old.  It was fantastic.

A quick note.  If you want better laying production from your girls, yes, the light level is important.  When it’s dark, they put themselves to bed, and don’t want to do anything.  However, the most important factor is protein.  Feed your girls some meat, and you will get more eggs.  Period.  We have proved it ourselves in practice, and even more than that, it makes sense.  Eggs are high in protein.  What’s easier for your girls?  Turning bugs and plants they eat into muscle protein, which the body then burns and makes into eggs?  Or turning hamburger into protein?  So if you want to boost production, feed them some meat every other day or so.  They will be happy, and you will get more eggs.

That wasn’t even my main experiment for the day to bring up.  So as we mentioned when making our own food, we were trying to eliminate the gluten that was being passed on to Jenn and I through the eggs.  That part of it has worked great.  The eggs not only taste better, but they don’t irritate our stomachs anymore.  However, in eliminating the layer feed from our girls diet, we had to come up with a source of calcium for them.

We had provided oyster shell for them before when we were using the layer feed, but they didn’t really take that much of it, so I am sure they were getting a lot of calcium from the feed.  When we eliminated the layer feed from their diet, they started wolfing down the oyster shell.  Which makes sense, of course, since that was the only calcium they were getting now.  Egg production stayed up, and the shells stayed very strong.

So then, like all permaculturists, we decided to see what we could do about eliminating that input with something we had an excess of.  Eggshells.

eggshells

So the good news is that yard eggs are very easy to handle in this way.  The eggs from our girls have nice thick shells, and tough membranes underneath.  So when we eat eggs, Jenn just leaves them out on the counter to dry for a bit, and peels the membranes off the inside of the shells.  They pretty much come right off.  Then we throw them in a bag, crunch them up, and they are ready to serve to our girls.

Except for one problem.  It doesn’t do as good of a job of replacing the  calcium as the oyster shell.  We tried feeding this to them for about 4 days, and already we were seeing the eggs come up much thinner and more fragile.  The eggs just weren’t the same, and we were worried about our girls.  So we switched back to the oyster shell, and within another few days, the eggs are robust and hardy again.

So my conclusion at the end of this, is that eggshells are not a good alternative for oyster shells.  Your girls do need calcium, but oyster shell seems to be the best place to get it if you aren’t using layer food.  In my area, a $4 bag lasts us almost a month, so its really not worth endangering the health of our girls to save that little amount of money.

So what to do with the eggshells?  Just pitch em?  No way.  You can still turn that output into a solution in a permaculture system.  Just compost it into your garden.  If you have a big compost pile situation, toss them into there.  If you have healthy soil, you can actually get away with just burying them in the soil.  The microbial life in the soil will break them down and make that calcium bio-available.  This way, you are still returning that calcium to the system, but you are returning it to you.

One of the reasons our ancestors were so much healthier was because the fruits and vegetables they ate had actual minerals and nutrients in them, instead of the endless stream of NPK fertilizer that they have now.  Calcium, copper, zinc, magnesium, etc.  This all used to be present in our food.  Now its mostly leached out.  So put those eggshells back into something that desperately needs more calcium than its getting.  Your body.

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