Waste Not – What to Do With Eggshells
Using eggshells for seedlings is one way of using eggshells in garden systems.
Reading Time: 4 minutes
By Sherri Talbot
Homesteading and farming aren’t just about long hours, cute babies or coveralls, and straw hats. It’s also about learning to make do with the things other people would throw away — saving bits of wire fencing “just in case,” recycling scrap wood into the next project, and tossing the ends of vegetables into the compost or out to the chickens.
One of these traditional homesteading tips involves what to do with eggshells. What are eggshells good for? Most of us in the farming world just throw them back as calcium supplements for chickens to strengthen the next round of eggs. There are many fancy steps one can take after cracking an egg. I’ve seen suggestions for washing the shells, baking them, grinding them into a powder so they don’t look like shells, and more. We crack them and throw them straight out the back door. The ducks practically have them cleaned up before they hit the ground.
However, when you get several dozen eggs a day, you might find yourself using more eggs than normal. Eventually, even the birds seem to begin looking at them as if to say, “Shells? Again?” Other than eggshell compost, though, what is one to do?
Here are just a few ideas for what to do with eggshells:
Chickens and ducks aren’t the only ones who can benefit from extra calcium. Powdered eggshells can do some good for any animal — whether sprinkled on your dog’s food or blended into your smoothie if your vet or doctor has suggested supplementing is in order. And you don’t need to buy eggshell powder. A word to the wise: while we choose to throw our shells to the chickens without washing, boiling, baking, etc., is probably best for other household critters — two-legged and four — if the eggs are cleaned first.
In fact, if there are lots of shells, there is no need for you to choose between the smoothie and the dog! According to Healthline.com, “Half an eggshell may provide enough calcium to meet the daily requirements for adults, which is 1,000 mg per day.” They further state that studies have suggested the calcium from an eggshell is more readily absorbable than most available supplements.
For the Artistic:
Are you getting enough calcium in your diet already? How about using eggshells as the medium for your artistic talents? Etsy, Pinterest, and other sites are full of people who have painted shells, and in some cases, even carved them. The results are stunning. Chicken and duck eggs make lovely decorations, while carved ostrich and emu eggs make nightlights, lampshades, and in one case, even the body of a beautiful jewelry box!
Perhaps you are like me and lack the dexterity to paint on such a delicate canvas or the patience to blow out the eggs. Google “eggshell mosaics” and take a look at how many beautiful things have been made with broken eggshells.
Eggshells in Garden Applications:
Many of our eggshells go into the compost pile, and eggshell compost will become nutrients for our gardens eventually. The same might be said of those shells digested by our chickens. However, if you want a more immediate boost to your garden, you can sprinkle crushed eggshells onto your garden and rake or till them into the soil. Many organic gardeners laud the effect of eggshells on plant growth. Or, if you want to have a fun project with your kids, why not start seeds in the shells and sprout some seedlings? They can then be planted right into the ground when ready. We hear eggshells for tomato plants are a good combination.
You can also use shells as a deterrent for slugs and snails. Crush them into large pieces with jagged edges, and no soft, squishy bug will want your veggies enough to journey through that labyrinth. Rumor has it this also works for deer and even cats, but it seems like that just wasn’t a very determined cat.
Art and gardening aren’t your cups of tea? For all you hunters out there, it isn’t just domestic birds that love eggshells! Check the regulations in your state, but wild ducks and turkeys love your eggshells just as much as their domestic brethren, making it the perfect bait for hunting season.
Avoid Those Chemicals:
Sink drains, narrow vases, those other annoying hard-to-reach spots: eggshells are the answer! Crush some up into rough chunks and add them to hot, soapy water. Let things soak for a bit and — if possible — give it a good shake! The hot water will soften up all the ick stuck to your dishes, and the eggshells will act like a scrubby sponge and slough it all away. No need to worry about the chemicals in store-bought cleaners or spend the money on them when you have the eggshell benefits right at home.
The same is true, by the way, for stained tubs, showers, or dishes. A mix of baking soda, eggshells, and just enough warm water to make a paste will get the job done. In this case, make sure your shells are crushed fine — no cutting yourself on jagged edges! — and remove the membranes from the inside of the shells before making your cleaning goop.
Did we miss your favorite use for eggshells? There are so many out there! Before throwing away your shells, or other scraps around your homestead that may seem useless, take a look around. Ask other homesteaders if they can use them — or how they use them! Check your favorite homestead sites, magazines, and search engine for ideas of what to do with eggshells. Chances are, you will find a use for things you never expected.
Originally published in the 2021 special issue of Backyard Poultry — A Natural and Sustainable Flock — and regularly vetted for accuracy.