Gardening with Chickens: Using Eggshells in the Garden

May 12, 2020

Your hens are going to provide you with dozens of fresh eggs.  Depending on the breed that you have, you can expect as many as 300+ fresh eggs from a single chicken each year!  That’s a lot of scrambled eggs for breakfast!  If you’re an egg fan, you probably don’t have a problem using up the abundance of eggs that you have.  But, there’s one part of the egg that is often underused and finds its way (unfortunately) into the garbage. 

            Think about how often you crack eggs and mindlessly toss them into the trashcan.  Eggshells are full of calcium and can be used as a way to boost your chicken’s calcium intake.  They can also be used in your garden.  Let’s talk about why you need to be saving your eggshells instead of tossing them into the trash.

Eggshells in the Garden

            All plants have nutritional needs that must be met in order for them to be healthy and productive. Garden plants, especially vegetable plants, require calcium in the soil.  Calcium is an essential nutrient for plants.  It is involved in many of the processes in plants.  Calcium helps to hold the tough outer cell wall of plant cells together. It also activates enzymes in the plant.  Enzymes are molecules that speed up processes in the plant, allowing it to grow and develop faster.  Calcium can also help create the proper pH level, increase water intake and help with proper fruit set and development.

            In other words, calcium is super important to plant health!  Calcium is used frequently in plants, especially plants that flower and develop fruit. Tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers and eggplants all need ample calcium to produce vegetables. Without enough calcium, these plants can drop their flowers, preventing your yummy vegetables from developing.  A lack of calcium can also mean that your plants develop blossom end rot.  Blossom end rot is the result of a calcium deficiency.  Fruits that have blossom end rot will develop a dark, wet lesion on the blossom end of the fruit.  Fruits that develop blossom end rot will be stunted and won’t grow properly.

            There’s an easy and cheap way to make sure that your plants are getting the calcium that they need.  You can use those eggshells that usually get tossed into the trash in your garden.  Adding them to the garden is super simple and doesn’t take much time at all.  You’ll also save money when you use egg shells since you won’t have to purchase calcium fertilizer sprays, which can be expensive.

Preparing Eggshells for the Garden

            You could just throw your eggshells directly into the garden, but you might be disappointed at how long it takes them to break down.  If you toss them straight into the garden after cracking them, you could be looking at whole eggshells for several months.  If you’re growing vegetables, several months is way too long for your eggshells to break down.  Eggshells are made up almost entirely of calcium, which is a tough mineral that takes time to break down.  You can speed the break down process up by doing a little bit of prep work before you put the shells into the garden.

            Pull out a bowl with a lid that you can dedicate to saving eggshells.  A Tupperware bowl works well.  Leave the bowl somewhere near your sink.  You’re much more likely to use it if it’s out where you can see it!  Every time that you crack an egg, give the shells a quick rinse and put it into the bowl.  Set the lid on it so that it’s covered, but don’t seal it.  You want the water to evaporate from the shell.  Don’t worry about patting them dry.  Just toss them into the bowl.

            Once your bowl starts to get full, you can crush up the shells.  There are a few ways that you can do this.  If your shells are all dry, you can easily crunch them up with your hands.  This will create little pieces of egg shell.  If you want to make them smaller, a mortar and pestle can grind them up into smaller pieces, although it’s a little more labor intensive and requires some elbow grease from you.  The easiest way to break your eggshells up is with a food processor.  Simply toss your dried eggshells into it and blend them into a powder.

            After you’ve crushed up your eggshells, you can add them to your garden soil.  The best way to add them to the soil is to mix them in.  If you’re using bags of potting soil, mix the eggshells into the soil with your hands.  You can till the shells into the soil if you have a larger garden that you till up.  A sprinkling around the top of the soil around the base of the plant works also.  Eggshells can take several months to break down enough for plants to use the calcium, so it’s a good idea to start adding eggshells to your garden soil in the fall.  Since you probably eat eggs all year long, make it a habit to save your eggshells all year.  As your eggshell bowl gets full, break them down and put them into the garden. This will create a rich and steady supply of calcium in your soil for anything that you decide to plant.

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More about Shelby DeVore

Shelby is an agricultural enthusiast that shares her love of all things farming with her husband and two children on their small farm in West Tennessee. She is a former agriculture education teacher and is also the author of the blog Farminence, where she enjoys sharing her love of gardening, raising livestock and more simple living. You can see more of Shelby's articles at: www.farminence.com

5 Comments
    1. Another way to use the ground shells is to put them around small plants. The sharp edges are supposed to discourage small soft bodied critters from crawling near the plants. Slugs and such like. It doesn’t last that long if you water overhead or if it rains, but it works great for those first few days while the plant is getting established.

    1. Another way to use the ground shells is to put them around small plants. The sharp edges are supposed to discourage small soft bodied critters from crawling near the plants. Slugs and such like. It doesn’t last that long if you water overhead or if it rains, but it works great for those first few days while the plant is getting established.

    1. Hi There,
      I have a question.
      Twice I’ve cr and cracked an egg to cook and couldnt use it. It was red, not clea g like I’m use to.
      I threw it down the drain.
      What was it, blood?
      Yuk, I feel sick now talking about it.
      Cecilia

    1. Hi There,
      I have a question.
      Twice I cracked an egg to cook and eat. It was red inside, i couldnt eat it.
      I threw it down the drain.
      What was it, blood?
      Yuk, I feel sick now talking about it.
      Cecilia

      1. Red spots in eggs are tiny spots of red blood that you’ll see when you crack open a fresh egg. All eggs, fertilized or not, contain tiny blood vessels that anchor the yolk inside the egg. … This is most commonly due to a hen being startled while laying her daily egg.

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