Working for the Weekend: Offer Crushed Eggshells to Birds

When doing some research on feeding mealworms to birds (look for more on that in the future), I picked up

When doing some research on feeding mealworms to birds (look for more on that in the future), I picked up a new and simple tip for backyard birders: offer crushed eggshells to birds to help supplement their digestion and calcium needs.

Photo Credit: Basil via WikipediaPhoto Credit: Basil via Wikipedia
Bluebird parents are known to eat eggshells after their chicks have hatched, possibly for the calcium they provide.

Birds use a gizzard to help with digestion. The gizzard is basically a very muscular stomach that grinds the food. Birds often swallow gritty objects like pebbles and sand which sit in the gizzard and help it break down the food.

Gritty substances like oyster shell and eggshells have the added benefit of providing calcium. Birds need calcium just like humans do for strong bones. Females require extra calcium during nesting season before and after egg-laying, and nestlings about to fledge need calcium to ensure their bones are strong enough to take that all-important first flight.

You have a couple of easy options for providing calcium to birds in your backyard. Crushed oyster shells are available at many feed stores and online from places like Drs. Foster and Smith. Oyster shell supplements contain about 35% calcium and cost around $3 for a 10 oz can.

On the other hand, eggshells from your own kitchen contain 80 – 90% calcium, and don’t cost anything. To use these safely, clean all the membranes from them and then bake them in a 250 degree oven for about 10 minutes (be careful not to burn them). Break them into pieces about the size of sunflower seeds, and offer them to birds in a separate dish near your outdoor bird feeders.

Have you ever offered eggshells to your backyard birds? Which birds seem to prefer them? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Every Thursday, the Working for the Weekend segment highlights a project or job for Southeastern gardeners to tackle in the weekend ahead. Know of a project you’d like to see featured here, or a garden chore you’d like some help with? Make your suggestions in the comments section below.

Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find her reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.